compass[kum′pəs; also käm′-]
- The definition of a compass is a tool with two pointed legs connected by a hinge, one end with a writing device the other used as a stable pivot, used for drawing perfect circles and other things.
An example of compass is what an architect uses for drawing curves in a building plan.
- A compass is defined as a device with magnetic needles used for showing the direction one is facing.
An example of a compass is what a backpacker would use to find their way through the woods.
- The definition of compass means to understand, grasp or fulfill.
An example of to compass is figuring out why your car won't start.
A compass lying on a set of architects drawings.
- Archaic to go around; make a circuit of
- encompass (sense )
- to grasp mentally; understand; comprehend
- to reach successfully; achieve; accomplish: to compass one's ends
- to plot or contrive (something harmful)
Origin of compassMiddle English compassen ; from Old French compasser, to go around ; from Vulgar Latin an unverified form compassare ; from Classical Latin com-, together + passus, a step: see pace
- an instrument consisting of two pointed legs connected at one end by a pivot, used for drawing arcs or circles or for taking measurementsalso called pair of compasses
- a boundary line; circumference
- an enclosed area
- full extent or range; reach; scope; specif., range of tones, as of a voice
- any of various instruments for showing direction, esp. one consisting of a magnetic needle swinging freely on a pivot and pointing to the magnetic north
- Archaic a circuit; course
Origin of compassME & OFr compas, a circle, prob. < the v.
- a. A device used to determine geographic direction, usually consisting of a magnetic needle or needles horizontally mounted or suspended and free to pivot until aligned with the earth's magnetic field.b. Another device, such as a radio compass or a gyrocompass, used for determining geographic direction.
- A V-shaped device for describing circles or circular arcs and for taking measurements, consisting of a pair of rigid, end-hinged legs, one of which is equipped with a pen, pencil, or other marker and the other with a sharp point providing a pivot about which the drawing leg is turned. Also called pair of compasses.
- Awareness or understanding of one's purpose or objectives: “Lacking a coherent intellectual and moral commitment, [he] was forced to find his compass in personal experience” (Doris Kearns Goodwin).
- a. An enclosing line or boundary; a circumference: outside the compass of the fence. See Synonyms at circumference.b. A restricted space or area: four huge crates within the compass of the elevator.c. Range or scope, as of understanding, perception, or authority: The subject falls outside the compass of this study. See Synonyms at range.
- Music See range.
transitive verbcom·passed, com·pass·ing, com·pass·es
- To make a circuit of; circle: The sailboat compassed the island.
- To surround; encircle: The trees compass the grave.
- To understand; comprehend: “God &ellipsis; is too great a profundity to be compassed by human cerebration” (Flann O'Brian).
- a. To accomplish or bring about: “He compassed his end only by the exercise of gentle violence” (Henry James).b. To gain or achieve: “She had compassed the high felicity of seeing the two men beautifully take to each another” (Henry James).
- To scheme; plot: compass the death of the king.
Origin of compassMiddle English compas, circle, compass, from Old French, from compasser, to measure, from Vulgar Latin *compassāre, to pace off : Latin com-, com- + Latin passus, step; see pace1.
top: directional compass
bottom: bow compass
- A magnetic or electronic device used to determine the cardinal directions (usually magnetic or true north).
- A pair of compasses (a device used to draw an arc or circle).
- (music) The range of notes of a musical instrument or voice.
- Their wisdom […] lies in a very narrow compass.
- 1913, D.H. Lawrence, Sons and Lovers, chapter 14
- Clara thought she had never seen him look so small and mean. He was as if trying to get himself into the smallest possible compass.
- Moderate bounds, limits of truth; moderation; due limits; used with within.
- This day I breathed first; time is come round, / And where I did begin, there shall I end; / My life is run his compass.
(third-person singular simple present compasses, present participle compassing, simple past and past participle compassed)
(comparative more compass, superlative most compass)
- (obsolete) In a circuit; round about.
For noun: from Middle English compas (“a circle, circuit, limit, form, a mathematical instrument”), from Old French compas, from Medieval Latin compassus (“a circle, a circuit”), from Latin com- (“together”) + passus (“a pace, step, later a pass, way, route”); see pass, pace.
For verb: from Middle English compassen (“to go around, make a circuit, draw a circle, contrive, intend”), from Old French compasser; from the noun; see compass as a noun.