fathom

[ fath-uh m ]
/ ˈfæð əm /

noun, plural fath·oms, (especially collectively) fath·om.

a unit of length equal to six feet (1.8 meters): used chiefly in nautical measurements. Abbreviation: fath

verb (used with object)

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

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 forms

fath·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. 2019

Examples from the Web for fathomable

  • 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.

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

British Dictionary definitions for fathomable

fathom

/ (ˈfæðəm) /

noun

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

verb (tr)

to measure the depth of, esp with a sounding line; sound
to penetrate (a mystery, problem, etc); discover the meaning of

Derived Forms

fathomable, 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