noun, plural fathoms (especially collectively) fathom.
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.

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

fathomable, adjective
fathomer, noun
unfathomable, adjective
unfathomed, adjective
Dictionary.com Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2014.
Cite This Source Link To fathomable
World English Dictionary
fathom (ˈfæðəm)
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
4.  to measure the depth of, esp with a sounding line; sound
5.  to penetrate (a mystery, problem, etc); discover the meaning of
[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 10th Edition
2009 © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009
Cite This Source
Word Origin & History

O.E. fæðm "length of the outstretched arm" (a measure of about six feet), also "arms, grasp," and, figuratively "power," from P.Gmc. *fathmaz "embrace" (cf. O.N. faðmr "embrace, bosom," O.S. fathmos "the outstretched arms," Du. vadem "a measure of six feet"), from PIE *pot-/*pet- denoting
"stretching out" (cf. Gk. petalon "leaf," L. patere "to be open"). The verb meaning of "take soundings" is c.1600; its figurative sense of "get to the bottom of, understand" is 1620s. Related: Fathomed; fathoming.

1630s, figurative; 1690s, literal; from fathom + -able.
Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
Cite This Source
Bible Dictionary

Fathom definition

(Old A.S. faethm, "bosom," or the outstretched arms), a span of six feet (Acts 27:28). Gr. orguia (from orego, "I stretch"), the distance between the extremities of both arms fully stretched out.

Easton's 1897 Bible Dictionary
Cite This Source
Example sentences
One answer wouldn't have been feasible or even fathomable a decade ago.
Related Words
Related Searches
Copyright © 2014 Dictionary.com, LLC. All rights reserved.
  • Please Login or Sign Up to use the Recent Searches feature