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1

fathom

play
noun fath·om \ˈfa-thəm\

Simple Definition of fathom

  • : a unit of length equal to six feet (about 1.8 meters) used especially for measuring the depth of water

Source: Merriam-Webster's Learner's Dictionary

Full Definition of fathom

  1. 1 :  a unit of length equal to six feet (1.83 meters) used especially for measuring the depth of water —sometimes used in the singular when qualified by a number <five fathom deep>

  2. 2 :  comprehension

Examples of fathom in a sentence

  1. The water here is five fathoms deep.



Origin of fathom

Middle English fadme, from Old English fæthm outstretched arms, length of the outstretched arms; akin to Old Norse fathmr fathom, Latin patēre to be open, pandere to spread out, Greek petannynai


First Known Use: before 12th century

Other Nautical Terms


2

fathom

verb fath·om

Simple Definition of fathom

  • : to understand the reason for (something)

Source: Merriam-Webster's Learner's Dictionary

Full Definition of fathom

  1. intransitive verb
  2. 1 :  probe

  3. 2 :  to take soundings

  4. transitive verb
  5. 1 :  to measure by a sounding line

  6. 2 :  to penetrate and come to understand <couldn't fathom the problem>

fathomable play \ˈfa-thə-mə-bəl\ adjective

Examples of fathom in a sentence

  1. <the pilot had to continually fathom the river, which drought conditions had lowered to unprecedented levels>



Did You Know?

Fathom comes to us from Old English fæthm, meaning "outstretched arms." The noun fathom, which now commonly refers to a measure (especially of depth) of six feet, was originally used for the distance, fingertip to fingertip, created by stretching one's arms straight out from the sides of the body. In one of its earliest uses, the verb fathom meant to encircle something with the arms as if for measuring and was also a synonym for "embrace." In the 1600s, however, fathom took on the meaning of using a sounding line to measure depth. At the same time, the verb also developed senses synonymous with "probe" or "investigate," and is now frequently used to refer to the act of getting to the bottom of something (figuratively speaking).

1607

First Known Use of fathom

1607


FATHOM Defined for Kids

1

fathom

play
noun fath·om \ˈfa-thəm\

Definition of fathom for Students

  1. :  a unit of length equal to six feet (about 1.8 meters) used chiefly in measuring the depth of water




2

fathom

play
verb fath·om

Definition of fathom for Students

fathomedfathoming

  1. 1 :  to understand the reason for something <I couldn't fathom how he escaped punishment.>

  2. 2 :  to measure the depth of water by means of a special line





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