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See also: faþom



From Middle English fathome, fadome, from Old English fæþm, fæþme ‎(outstretched or encircling arms, embrace, grasp, protection, interior, bosom, lap, breast, womb, fathom, cubit, power, expanse, surface), from Proto-Germanic *faþmaz ‎(embrace), from Proto-Indo-European *pet- ‎(to spread out, extend). Cognate with Low German fadem, faem ‎(a cubit, thread), Dutch vadem, vaam ‎(fathom), German Faden ‎(thread, filament, fathom), Danish favn ‎(embrace, fathom), Swedish famn ‎(the arms, bosom, embrace), Icelandic faðmur ‎(embrace), Latin pateō, Ancient Greek πετάννυμι ‎(petánnumi).



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fathom ‎(plural fathoms)

  1. (obsolete) Grasp, envelopment, control.
  2. (nautical) A measure of length corresponding to the outstretched arms, standardised to six feet, now used mainly for measuring depths in seas or oceans.
  3. (by extension) Mental reach or scope; penetration; the extent of capacity; depth of thought or contrivance.
    • Shakespeare
      Another of his fathom they have none / To lead their business (Othello, I.i. 151-2).


  • (measure of length corresponding to the outstretched arms): brace



fathom ‎(third-person singular simple present fathoms, present participle fathoming, simple past and past participle fathomed)

  1. (transitive, archaic) To encircle with outstretched arms, especially to take a measurement; to embrace.
  2. (transitive) To measure the depth of, take a sounding of.
  3. (transitive, figuratively) To get to the bottom of; to manage to comprehend (a problem etc.).
    I can't for the life of me fathom what this means.



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