When I was reading about the meanings of the word perceive, I found that it is used in different ways. For example, sometimes it could mean understand but in other contexts it could mean realize, so I am a little confused because I do not know if it is exactly interchangeable with the words understand and realize or not.

  • It's closely related to the verb see. I see you has a wide range of meanings, for example. I see you could mean I can perceive (hah!) you with my eyes, or I visit you, or I understand you (though normally, that would be just I see or I (can) see what you're trying to say), among other things. Commented May 16, 2015 at 22:23

1 Answer 1


Perceive refers to the capacity of perception through your senses. You can perceive something through one or more of your senses, that is seeing, smelling, touching, hearing or tasting.

But to perceive something doesn't necessarily imply that you understand or realize it:

I can perceive something in the sky but I can't realize what it is.

However, there are instances when you may assimilate the perception to an understanding, for example definition #2 from American Heritage Dictinary of the English Language:

  1. To achieve understanding of; apprehend: Einstein perceived that energy and matter are equivalent.

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