from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

  • n. A device used to determine geographic direction, usually consisting of a magnetic needle or needles horizontally mounted or suspended and free to pivot until aligned with the earth's magnetic field.
  • n. Another device, such as a radio compass or a gyrocompass, used for determining geographic direction.
  • n. A V-shaped device for describing circles or circular arcs and for taking measurements, consisting of a pair of rigid, end-hinged legs, one of which is equipped with a pen, pencil, or other marker and the other with a sharp point providing a pivot about which the drawing leg is turned. Also called pair of compasses.
  • n. An enclosing line or boundary; a circumference: outside the compass of the fence. See Synonyms at circumference.
  • n. A restricted space or area: four huge crates within the compass of the elevator.
  • n. Range or scope, as of understanding, perception, or authority: "Lacking a coherent intellectual and moral commitment, [he] was forced to find his compass in personal experience” ( Doris Kearns Goodwin). See Synonyms at range.
  • n. Music See range.
  • transitive v. To make a circuit of; circle: The sailboat compassed the island.
  • transitive v. To surround; encircle. See Synonyms at surround.
  • transitive v. To understand; comprehend.
  • transitive v. To succeed in carrying out; accomplish. See Synonyms at reach.
  • transitive v. To scheme; plot.
  • adj. Forming a curved configuration.
  • adj. Semicircular. Used of bow windows.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • n. A magnetic or electronic device used to determine the cardinal directions (usually magnetic or true north).
  • n. A pair of compasses (a device used to draw an arc or circle).
  • n. The range of notes of a musical instrument or voice.
  • n. A space within limits; area.
  • n. Scope.
  • v. To surround; to encircle; to environ; to stretch round.
  • v. To go about or round entirely; to traverse.
  • v. To accomplish; to reach; to achieve; to obtain.
  • v. To plot; to scheme (against someone).
  • adv. In a circuit; round about.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • n. A passing round; circuit; circuitous course.
  • n. An inclosing limit; boundary; circumference.
  • n. An inclosed space; an area; extent.
  • n. Extent; reach; sweep; capacity; sphere.
  • n. Moderate bounds, limits of truth; moderation; due limits; -- used with within.
  • n. The range of notes, or tones, within the capacity of a voice or instrument.
  • n. An instrument for determining directions upon the earth's surface by means of a magnetized bar or needle turning freely upon a pivot and pointing in a northerly and southerly direction.
  • n. A pair of compasses.
  • n. A circle; a continent.
  • transitive v. To go about or entirely round; to make the circuit of.
  • transitive v. To inclose on all sides; to surround; to encircle; to environ; to invest; to besiege; -- used with about, round, around, and round about.
  • transitive v. To reach round; to circumvent; to get within one's power; to obtain; to accomplish.
  • transitive v. To curve; to bend into a circular form.
  • transitive v. To purpose; to intend; to imagine; to plot.

from The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia

  • To stretch round; extend about so as to embrace; inclose; encircle; environ; surround.
  • To go about or round; make the circuit of.
  • To obtain; attain to; procure; gain; bring within one's power; accomplish.
  • To purpose; intend; imagine; plot; contrive.
  • To canvass; reflect upon; ponder.
  • To bend in the form of a circle or curve; make circular or curved: as, to compass timber for a ship.
  • Synonyms To achieve, bring about, effect, secure.
  • In a compass or curve; in archery, at an elevation.
  • To the limit.
  • To grasp mentally; comprehend.
  • To adjust or orient by means of a compass.
  • To level a compass.
  • n. A circle.
  • n. Specifically—2. The circle of the earth.
  • n. A passing round or in a circle; a circular course; a circuit; round; circumference.
  • n. Range or extent within limits; hence, limit or boundary; limits.
  • n. In music, the total range or number of tones which a given voice or instrument is capable of producing.
  • n. Contrivance; scheme; plotting; plan.
  • n. An instrument used to indicate the magnetic meridian, or the direction of objects with reference to that meridian.
  • n. A mathematical instrument for describing circles, or for measuring figures, distances between two points, etc.: commonly in the plural.
  • n. In zoology, the radius of the dentary apparatus of a sea-urchin. See radius, and cut under lantern.
  • n. In archery, elevation of the arrow in shooting.
  • n. To keep within bounds.
  • n. [capitalized] In astronomy, a small southern constellation.

from WordNet 3.0 Copyright 2006 by Princeton University. All rights reserved.

  • v. get the meaning of something
  • n. navigational instrument for finding directions
  • v. travel around, either by plane or ship
  • v. bring about; accomplish
  • n. an area in which something acts or operates or has power or control:
  • n. the limit of capability
  • n. drafting instrument used for drawing circles


from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

Middle English compas, circle, compass, from Old French, from compasser, to measure, from Vulgar Latin *compassāre, to pace off : Latin com-, com- + Latin passus, step; see pace1.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

For noun: from Middle English compas ("a circle, circuit, limit, form, a mathematical instrument"), from Old French compas, from Medieval Latin compassus ("a circle, a circuit"), from Latin com- ("together") + passus ("a pace, step, later a pass, way, route"); see pass, pace.



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  • But all ye Gods,

    Adore him, who to compass all this dies,

    Adore the Son, and honour him as mee.

    Milton, Paradise Lost III

    December 19, 2006