verb com·pass \ˈkəm-pəs also ˈkäm-\

Definition of compass

  1. transitive verb
  2. 1 :  to devise or contrive often with craft or skill :  plot <persons … who have compassed my destruction — Charles Dickens>

  3. 2 :  encompass

  4. 3 a :  bring about, achieve b :  to get into one's possession or power :  obtain

  5. 4 :  comprehend


play \-pə-sə-bəl\ adjective

Examples of compass in a sentence

  1. <attempting more than his modest abilities could compass>

  2. <the great age of exploration, when ships of sail compassed the earth>

Origin and Etymology of compass

Middle English, from Anglo-French cumpasser to measure, from Vulgar Latin *compassare to pace off, from Latin com- + passus pace

First Known Use: 14th century



noun com·pass

Definition of compass

  1. 1 a :  boundary, circumference <within the compass of the city walls> b :  a circumscribed space <within the narrow compass of 21 pages — V. L. Parrington> c :  range, scope <the compass of my voice>

  2. 2 :  a curved or roundabout course <a compass of seven days' journey — 2 Kings 3:9(Authorized Version)>

  3. 3 a :  a device for determining directions by means of a magnetic needle or group of needles turning freely on a pivot and pointing to the magnetic north b :  any of various nonmagnetic devices that indicate direction c :  an instrument for describing circles or transferring measurements that consists of two pointed branches joined at the top by a pivot —usually used in plural —called also pair of compasses

  4. 4 :  direction 6c <his moral compass>

Examples of compass in a sentence

  1. He always carries a compass when he walks in the woods.

  2. His religion is the compass that guides him.

  3. Interest rates serve as a compass for determining whether to buy or sell stocks.

  4. The character in the movie had no moral compass to tell him that stealing was wrong.

Illustration of compass

14th Century

First Known Use of compass

14th century

Synonym Discussion of compass

range, gamut, compass, sweep, scope, orbit mean the extent that lies within the powers of something (as to cover or control). range is a general term indicating the extent of one's perception or the extent of powers, capacities, or possibilities <the entire range of human experience>. gamut suggests a graduated series running from one possible extreme to another <a performance that ran the gamut of emotions>. compass implies a sometimes limited extent of perception, knowledge, or activity <your concerns lie beyond the narrow compass of this study>. sweep suggests extent, often circular or arc-shaped, of motion or activity <the book covers the entire sweep of criminal activity>. scope is applicable to an area of activity, predetermined and limited, but somewhat flexible <as time went on, the scope of the investigation widened>. orbit suggests an often circumscribed range of activity or influence within which forces work toward accommodation <within that restricted orbit they tried to effect social change>.



adjective com·pass

Definition of compass

  1. :  forming a curve :  curved <a compass timber>


First Known Use of compass


COMPASS Defined for English Language Learners



noun com·pass

Definition of compass for English Language Learners

  • : a device that is used to find direction by means of a needle that always points north

  • : something that helps a person make choices about what is right, effective, etc.

  • : a tool that consists of two pointed sticks joined at the top and that is used for measuring distances

COMPASS Defined for Kids


noun com·pass \ˈkəm-pəs\

Definition of compass for Students

  1. 1 :  a device having a magnetic needle that indicates direction on the earth's surface by pointing toward the north

  2. 2 :  an instrument for drawing circles or marking measurements consisting of two pointed legs joined at the top by a pivot —usually used in pl.

  3. 3 :  1range 2, scope <He is within the compass of my voice.>

Seen and Heard

What made you want to look up compass? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


to decrease in size, extent, or degree

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