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fathom

[fath -uh m] /ˈfæð əm/
noun, plural fathoms (especially collectively) fathom.
1.
a unit of length equal to six feet (1.8 meters): used chiefly in nautical measurements.
Abbreviation: fath.
verb (used with object)
2.
to measure the depth of by means of a sounding line; sound.
3.
to penetrate to the truth of; comprehend; understand:
to fathom someone's motives.
Origin
900
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
fathomable, adjective
fathomer, noun
unfathomable, adjective
unfathomed, adjective
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Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2014.
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British Dictionary definitions for un fathomed

fathom

/ˈfæðəm/
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
verb (transitive)
4.
to measure the depth of, esp with a sounding line; sound
5.
to penetrate (a mystery, problem, etc); discover the meaning of
Derived Forms
fathomable, adjective
fathomer, noun
Word Origin
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
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Word Origin and History for un fathomed

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."

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.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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un fathomed in the Bible

(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
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Encyclopedia Article for un fathomed

fathom

old English measure of length, now standardized at 6 feet (1.83 metre), which has long been used as a nautical unit of depth. The longest of many units derived from an anatomical measurement, the fathom originated as the distance from the middle fingertip of one hand to the middle fingertip of the other hand of a large man holding his arms fully extended. The name comes from the Old English faedm or faethm, meaning outstretched arms

Learn more about fathom with a free trial on Britannica.com
Encyclopedia Britannica, 2008. Encyclopedia Britannica Online.
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