- a unit of length equal to six feet (1.8 meters): used chiefly in nautical measurements. Abbreviation: fath
- to measure the depth of by means of a sounding line; sound.
- to penetrate to the truth of; comprehend; understand: to fathom someone's motives.
Origin of fathom
Examples from the Web for fathoming
He looked at her for a moment, fathoming the purport of what she said.The Trampling of the Lilies
This difference is beyond the fathoming line of human thought.Aims and Aids for Girls and Young Women
George Sumner Weaver
In fact he had thrown himself in his hands for the purpose of fathoming his plots.Historical Tales, Vol. 9 (of 15)
The doctor was fathoming Josephine, for the benefit of his companion.White Lies
My affection hampers me from fathoming Frank's inner-most thoughts.Old Mr. Wiley
Fanny Greye La Spina
- a unit of length equal to six feet (1.829 metres), used to measure depths of water
- mining a unit of volume usually equal to six cubic feet, used in measuring ore bodies
- forestry a unit of volume equal to six cubic feet, used for measuring timber
- to measure the depth of, esp with a sounding line; sound
- to penetrate (a mystery, problem, etc); discover the meaning of
Word Origin and History for fathoming
Old English fæðm "length of the outstretched arm" (a measure of about six feet), also "arms, grasp," and, figuratively "power," from Proto-Germanic *fathmaz "embrace" (cf. Old Norse faðmr "embrace, bosom," Old Saxon fathmos "the outstretched arms," Dutch vadem "a measure of six feet"), from PIE *pot(e)-mo-, from root *pete- "to spread, stretch out" (see pace (n.)). There are apparent cognates in Old Frisian fethem, German faden "thread," which OED explains by reference to "spreading out."
Old English fæðmian "to embrace, surround, envelop;" see fathom (n.). The meaning "take soundings" is from c.1600; its figurative sense of "get to the bottom of, understand" is 1620s. Related: Fathomed; fathoming.