I really couldn't decide on the meaning of "comprehend" in this sentence. Does it mean "understand" or "include/comprise/encompass", or something else? Could anyone help please? Many thanks.

He then told her of Georgiana’s delight in her acquaintance, and of her disappointment at its sudden interruption, which naturally leading to the cause of that interruption, she soon learnt that his resolution of following her from Derbyshire in quest of her sister had been formed before he quitted the inn, and that his gravity and thoughtfulness there had arisen from no other struggles than what such a purpose must comprehend.

from Pride & Prejudice

  • 2
    I think it must mean include, involve. Commented May 14, 2020 at 12:56
  • So do I. Thank you for your word "involve". Because in my mother language, "invlove" makes much sense than "include". I really feel that "a purpose" could not "understand sth"; but to achieve such "a purpose" involves a lot to do.
    – user86301
    Commented May 14, 2020 at 13:25

1 Answer 1


In this case, 'comprehend' means "to encompass," from Latin roots that mean "to hold completely."

Thus, the meaning of the phrase what such a purpose must comprehend in this convoluted, 71 word sentence (typical for Jane Austin and other writers of the time) is that he [Darcy] was grave and thoughtful at the inn only because of his decision to follow her [Elizabeth] to search for her sister [Lydia].

Entomology of 'comprehend'

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