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Longman Dictionary of Contemporary English
▪ A few minutes later: port, six fathoms and starboard, ten fathoms.
▪ At the moment I'd guess we're in two to three hundred fathoms.
▪ Below him, full fathom five; above, infinity.
▪ From the port side depths of seven fathoms were sounded, but only twelve from the starboard side.
▪ In Taylor's Level the ground was equally as hard and the rate had been increased there to £9 a fathom.
▪ She gripped his clothing to hold her up, and plunged fathoms deep, mindless, soaring.
▪ Where the vein was of considerable thickness it was quite usual to pay the men at so much per cubic fathom.
▪ Often it is difficult to fathom how these slings are knotted and connected.
▪ Nor could he fathom how any daughter of his could be, either.
▪ What the locals could not fathom out, however, was the reason behind Pascoe's new-found prosperity.
▪ Fortunately in trying to fathom out what happened next we have the advantage of the known laws of science.
▪ He was having enough difficulty understanding his own feelings, without trying to fathom out Carrie's.
▪ Adam still hadn't fathomed out how he did it all so effortlessly.
▪ Do not waste valuable height trying to fathom out how to get down in an unsuitable field.
▪ Mark was at a loss to fathom why he resented him so much.
▪ He couldn't fathom why she was so anxious that no one else should know of his interest in her.
▪ Robert had not yet been able to fathom why this was the case.
▪ He couldn't fathom why she'd taken such exception to Eleanor.
▪ None the less, I try to fathom: I read the histories.
▪ He closed his eyes on the idea of people standing around a grave and this poor woman trying to fathom it all.
▪ Dalzell looked as if he were trying to fathom her character.
▪ For years, I tried to fathom the mentality that simply waves off concern about the cost of regulations as irrelevant.
▪ She watched him for several moments, then looked about the large dining-room, trying to fathom the reason for his actions.
▪ Sam Fong had stopped dusting the cans and had given up trying to fathom the writing on the crate.
▪ He was having enough difficulty understanding his own feelings, without trying to fathom out Carrie's.
▪ Do not waste valuable height trying to fathom out how to get down in an unsuitable field.
▪ The jury had difficulty fathoming the technical details.
▪ For years, I tried to fathom the mentality that simply waves off concern about the cost of regulations as irrelevant.
▪ He closed his eyes on the idea of people standing around a grave and this poor woman trying to fathom it all.
▪ I can't quite fathom it.
▪ The 1960s were the years of jaunty self-confidence among economists, and the reasons for this were not difficult to fathom.
▪ The morning after the funeral, Jean started trying to fathom the mysteries posed by the contents of Brian's wallet.
▪ The reason for a larger military role in domestic law enforcement is not hard to fathom.
▪ They have assisted many hon. Members, including myself, in fathoming the difficult procedure.
The Collaborative International Dictionary

Fathom \Fath"om\ (f[a^][th]"[u^]m), n. [OE. fadme, fa[eth]me, AS. f[ae][eth]m fathom, the embracing arms; akin to OS. fa[eth]mos the outstretched arms, D. vadem, vaam, fathom, OHG. fadom, fadum, G. faden fathom, thread, Icel. fa[eth]mr fathom, Sw. famn, Dan. favn; cf. Gr. ?????????? to spread out, ??????? outspread, flat, L. patere to lie open, extend. Cf. Patent, Petal.]

  1. A measure of length, containing six feet; the space to which a man can extend his arms; -- used chiefly in measuring cables, cordage, and the depth of navigable water by soundings.

  2. The measure or extant of one's capacity; depth, as of intellect; profundity; reach; penetration. [R.]

    Another of his fathom they have none To lead their business.


Fathom \Fath"om\, v. t. [imp. & p. p. Fathomed; p. pr. & vb. n. Fathoming.]

  1. To encompass with the arms extended or encircling; to measure by throwing the arms about; to span. [Obs.]

  2. To measure by a sounding line; especially, to sound the depth of; to penetrate, measure, and comprehend; to get to the bottom of.

    The page of life that was spread out before me seemed dull and commonplace, only because I had not fathomed its deeper import.

Douglas Harper's Etymology Dictionary

Old English fæðm "length of the outstretched arm" (a measure of about six feet), also "arms, grasp, embrace," and, figuratively "power," from Proto-Germanic *fathmaz "embrace" (cognates: Old Norse faðmr "embrace, bosom," Old Saxon fathmos "the outstretched arms," Dutch vadem "a measure of six feet"), from PIE *pot(ə)-mo-, from root *petə- "to spread, stretch out" (see pace (n.)). It has apparent cognates in Old Frisian fethem, German faden "thread," which OED explains by reference to "spreading out." As a unit of measure, in an early gloss it appears for Latin passus, which was about 5 feet.


Old English fæðmian "to embrace, surround, envelop," from a Proto-Germanic verb derived from the source of fathom (n.); cognates: Old High German fademon, Old Norse faþma. The meaning "take soundings" is from c.1600; its figurative sense of "get to the bottom of, penetrate with the mind, understand" is from 1620s. Related: Fathomed; fathoming.


n. 1 (context obsolete English) grasp, envelopment, control. 2 (context nautical English) A measure of length corresponding to the outstretched arms, standardised to six feet, now used mainly for measuring depths in seas or oceans. 3 (context by extension English) mental reach or scope; penetration; the extent of capacity; depth of thought or contrivance. vb. 1 (context transitive archaic English) To encircle with outstretched arms, especially to take a measurement; to embrace. 2 (context transitive English) To measure the depth of, take a sounding of. 3 (context transitive figuratively English) To get to the bottom of; to manage to comprehend (a problem etc.).

  1. n. a linear unit of measurement (equal to 6 feet) for water depth [syn: fthm]

  2. (mining) a unit of volume (equal to 6 cubic feet) used in measuring bodies of ore [syn: fthm]

  3. v. come to understand [syn: penetrate, bottom]

  4. measure the depth of (a body of water) with a sounding line [syn: sound]


A fathom is a unit of length in the imperial and the U.S. customary systems equal to 6 feet (1.8288 metres), used especially for measuring the depth of water.

There are two yards (6 feet) in an imperial fathom. Originally based on the distance between a man's outstretched arms, the size of a fathom has varied slightly depending on whether it was defined as a thousandth of an (Admiralty) nautical mile or as a multiple of the imperial yard. Formerly, the term was used for any of several units of length varying around .

The name derives from the Old English word fæðm, corresponding to the Old High German word "fadum" meaning embracing arms or a pair of outstretched arms. In Middle English it was fathme. A cable length, based on the length of a ship's cable, has been variously reckoned as equal to 100 or 120 fathoms. At one time, a quarter meant one-fourth of a fathom.

Fathom (comics)

Fathom is a comic book created by Michael Turner and originally published by Top Cow Productions. It debuted in 1998 and was Michael Turner's first creator-owned comic book series. Fathom is currently published by Turner's own company, Aspen MLT.

Fathom (disambiguation)

The fathom is an English unit of measurement. __NOTOC__ Fathom may also refer to:

Fathom (film)

' Fathom ' is a 1967 British spy comedy film directed by Leslie H. Martinson, starring Raquel Welch and Anthony Franciosa.

Fathom Harvill (Welch) is a skydiver touring Europe with a U.S. parachute team. She is approached by a Scottish agent to recover an atomic triggering mechanism. The film was based on Larry Forrester's second Fathom novel Fathom Heavensent, then in the draft stage but never published. His first was 1967's A Girl Called Fathom.

This was one of three 1967 20th Century Fox films about female spies, the others being Doris Day's Caprice and Andrea Dromm's Come Spy with Me.

Fathom (album)

Fathom is the second album by Christian dance-rock band Mortal, and is generally considered the band's best album. The band produced the album along with Terry Scott Taylor of Daniel Amos. It peaked at No. 32 on the Billboard Top Contemporary Christian chart.

Fathom (cruise line)

Fathom Travel Ltd., stylized as "fathom", is a cruise line based in Doral, Florida, a suburb of Miami, USA. It is incorporated in the United Kingdom, and owned by Carnival Corporation & plc. The line is designed to operate in the "social impact travel" market.

Usage examples of "fathom".

Once in a while, though, there would be glimpses of the sun--which looked abnormally large--and of the moon, whose markings held a touch of difference from the normal that I could never quite fathom.

Not even a droplet of all thine endless love can I aspire to fathom, nor can I adequately praise and tell of even the most trifling out of all the events of thy precious life.

Fathom, believing that now was the season for working upon her passions, while they were all in commotion, became, if possible, more assiduous than ever about the fair mourner, modelled his features into a melancholy cast, pretended to share her distress with the most emphatic sympathy, and endeavoured to keep her resentment glowing by cunning insinuations, which, though apparently designed to apologise for his friend, served only to aggravate the guilt of his perfidy and dishonour.

Fathom, and immediately set on foot a prosecution against our adventurer, whose behaviour to his wife he did not fail to promulgate, with all its aggravating circumstances.

This is no common case--it is a madness out of time and a horror from beyond the spheres which no police or lawyers or courts or alienists could ever fathom or grapple with.

This is no common case - it is a madness out of time and a horror from beyond the spheres which no police or lawyers or courts or alienists could ever fathom or grapple with.

While this grateful creature kissed the hand of her kind benefactress, Fathom uttered a groan, began to stir in the bed, and with a languid voice called upon Elenor, who, instantly withdrawing the curtain, presented the whole company to his view.

Dredging the sand-bar and cutting a passage in the soft coralline reef will give excellent shelter and, some say, a depth of seventeen fathoms.

And now, looking down on the remains of this bizarre and deadly bird that had found its way to a small town along the Moriandral, Orris began to fathom what Crob must have felt that day.

Elenor, whom the artful Fathom had debauched upon his first arrival in town, in the manner already described in these memoirs.

The next day, the 16th of February, we left the basin which, between Rhodes and Alexandria, is reckoned about 1,500 fathoms in depth, and the Nautilus, passing some distance from Cerigo, quitted the Grecian Archipelago after having doubled Cape Matapan.

I could tell him now: it is fifty fathoms of three-quarter-inch line, though you would never credit it, and the euphroe is fourteen inches.

II When through hot fog the fulgid sun looks down Upon a stagnant earth where listless men Laboriously dawdle, curse, and sweat, Disqualified, unsatisfied, inert, -- It seems to me somehow that God himself Scans with a close reproach what I have done, Counts with an unphrased patience my arrears, And fathoms my unprofitable thoughts.

The Groaners were some ragged low rocks, off one of the points, and Sunken Reef was a wide ledge about ten fathoms deep.

He sent Butcher to show Dr Maturin the temperature at the surface, and ten and at fifty fathoms, together with the hygrometrical readings and a message to the effect that Captain Aubrey was obliged to stay on deck.