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fathom

[fath-uh m]
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noun, plural fath·oms, (especially collectively) fath·om.
  1. a unit of length equal to six feet (1.8 meters): used chiefly in nautical measurements. Abbreviation: fath
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verb (used with object)
  1. to measure the depth of by means of a sounding line; sound.
  2. to penetrate to the truth of; comprehend; understand: to fathom someone's motives.
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Origin of fathom

before 900; Middle English fathme, Old English fæthm span of outstretched arms; cognate with German Faden six-foot measure, Old Norse fathmr; akin to patent
Related formsfath·om·a·ble, adjectivefath·om·er, nounun·fath·om·a·ble, adjectiveun·fath·omed, adjective
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Related Words for fathomable

clear, comprehensible, intelligible, logical, comprehendible

Examples from the Web for fathomable

Historical Examples of fathomable

  • But in every other sense, in all that touches the fathomable business of daylight, she has been a conspicuous success.

    The Open Secret of Ireland

    T. M. Kettle

  • They are fathomable; for carried to a certain pitch of intensity they end in ecstasy or they end in death.

    The Complex Vision

    John Cowper Powys

  • They are fathomable; for even in the souls of "the immortals" they are only instruments of life warring against death.

    The Complex Vision

    John Cowper Powys

  • The twitching would disappear for a time for no fathomable reason, and reappear again.


British Dictionary definitions for fathomable

fathom

noun
  1. a unit of length equal to six feet (1.829 metres), used to measure depths of water
  2. mining a unit of volume usually equal to six cubic feet, used in measuring ore bodies
  3. forestry a unit of volume equal to six cubic feet, used for measuring timber
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verb (tr)
  1. to measure the depth of, esp with a sounding line; sound
  2. to penetrate (a mystery, problem, etc); discover the meaning of
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Derived Formsfathomable, adjectivefathomer, noun

Word Origin for fathom

Old English fæthm; related to Old Frisian fethem outstretched arms, Old Norse fathmr embrace, Old High German fadum cubit, Latin patēre to gape
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012

Word Origin and History for fathomable

adj.

1630s, figurative; 1690s, literal; from fathom (v.) + -able.

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fathom

n.

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."

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fathom

v.

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.

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Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper