What It Means
1 : to make a searching exploratory investigation : probe
2 : to take soundings
3 : to measure by a sounding line
4 : to penetrate and come to understand
fathom in Context
Even those close to him can't always fathom why he repeatedly risks his life to climb the world's tallest mountains.
"When the coronavirus pandemic struck, we expected the real estate business to hit a brick wall and never fathomed the possibility of 2020 becoming a record year for the Houston market." — Richard Miranda, quoted in The Houston Agent Magazine, 14 Jan. 2021
Did You Know?
Fathom comes 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 was a synonym of our modern embrace: to fathom someone was to clasp the person in your arms. By the 1600s fathom had taken to the seas, as the verb was used to mean "to measure by a sounding line." At the same time, the verb also developed senses synonymous with probe or investigate, and it is now frequently used to refer to the act of getting to the bottom of something, figuratively speaking.
Test Your Vocabulary with M-W Quizzes
Name That Synonym
Fill in the blanks to complete a synonym of fathom: p _ _ r _ _.VIEW THE ANSWER
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