- an instrument for determining directions, as by means of a freely rotating magnetized needle that indicates magnetic north.
- the enclosing line or limits of any area; perimeter: You can find anything you want downtown within the compass of ten square blocks.
- space within limits; area; extent; range; scope: the narrow compass of the strait; the broad compass of the novel.
- Also called range. the total range of tones of a voice or of a musical instrument.
- due or proper limits; moderate bounds: Their behavior stayed within the compass of propriety.
- a passing round; circuit: the compass of a year.
- Often compasses. an instrument for drawing or describing circles, measuring distances, etc., consisting generally of two movable, rigid legs hinged to each other at one end (usually used with pair of): to spread the legs of a compass and draw a larger circle.
- (initial capital letter) Astronomy.
- Also called Mariner's Compass.the constellation Pyxis.
- Compasses,the constellation Circinus.
- curved; forming a curve or arc: a compass timber; compass roof.
- to go or move round; make the circuit of: It would take a week to compass his property on foot.
- to extend or stretch around; hem in; surround; encircle: An old stone wall compasses their property.
- to attain or achieve; accomplish; obtain.
- to contrive; plot; scheme: to compass a treacherous plan.
- to make curved or circular.
- to comprehend; to grasp, as with the mind: His mind could not compass the extent of the disaster.
Origin of compass
SynonymsSee more synonyms for compass on Thesaurus.com
Examples from the Web for compass
Muscovites call their favorite station “Ukho Moskvy” (Ear of Moscow) and see it as an institution, a compass for society.The Kremlin Is Killing Echo of Moscow, Russia’s Last Independent Radio Station
November 7, 2014
It radiates her inner light and compass, her disregard for status quo.Why Maya Angelou Loved Sherry, The Drink of Brilliant Renegades
June 15, 2014
He goes on to compass the very nature of memory by way of considering how we memorialize mass death.Geoff Dyer at Sea: Unmoored but on Target
Melissa Holbrook Pierson
May 21, 2014
As a lifelong reader, I have rarely had any sort of compass to guide me.Can Great Literature Really Change Your Life?
January 5, 2014
A hole, though shaped like an ellipse, in which this well-hung stud had placed it would look as if a compass traced it.Read This and Blush: Naughty Medieval French Tales
June 13, 2013
But, nerved as he was by desperation, he found the task greater than he could compass.Brave and Bold
The rock is very magnetic, and the compass is quite useless.Explorations in Australia
I was tired of trying to steer a course for myself, with no compass to go by.The Conquest of Fear
This fact is sustained by evidences teeming upon us from every point of the compass.Ridgeway
We were without a compass, and steered by the direction of the wind and sea.Ned Myers
James Fenimore Cooper
- an instrument for finding direction, usually having a magnetized needle which points to magnetic north swinging freely on a pivot
- Also called: pair of compasses (often plural) an instrument used for drawing circles, measuring distances, etc, that consists of two arms, joined at one end, one arm of which serves as a pivot or stationary reference point, while the other is extended or describes a circle
- limits or rangewithin the compass of education
- music the interval between the lowest and highest note attainable by a voice or musical instrument
- archaic a circular course
- to encircle or surround; hem in
- to comprehend or grasp mentally
- to achieve; attain; accomplish
- obsolete to plot
Word Origin and History for compass
c.1300, "space, area, extent, circumference," from Old French compas "circle, radius, pair of compasses" (12c.), from compasser "to go around, measure, divide equally," from Vulgar Latin *compassare "to pace out" (source of Italian compassare, Spanish compasar), from Latin com- "together" (see com-) + passus "a step" (see pace (n.)).
The mathematical instrument so called from mid-14c. The mariners' directional tool (so called since early 15c.) took the name, perhaps, because it's round and has a point like the mathematical instrument. The word is in most European languages, with a mathematical sense in Romance, a nautical sense in Germanic, and both in English.
c.1300, "to devise, plan;" early 14c. as "to surround, contain, envelop, enclose;" from Anglo-French cumpasser, from compass (n.). Related: Compassed; compassing.
- A device used to determine geographical direction, usually consisting of a magnetic needle mounted on a pivot, aligning itself naturally with the Earth's magnetic field so that it points to the Earth's geomagnetic north or south pole.
- A device used for drawing circles and arcs and for measuring distances on maps, consisting of two legs hinged together at one end.