What does compass mean?

Definitions for compass
ˈkʌm pəscom·pass

This dictionary definitions page includes all the possible meanings, example usage and translations of the word compass.

Princeton's WordNet

  1. compassnoun

    navigational instrument for finding directions

  2. scope, range, reach, orbit, compass, ambitnoun

    an area in which something acts or operates or has power or control: "the range of a supersonic jet"

    "a piano has a greater range than the human voice"; "the ambit of municipal legislation"; "within the compass of this article"; "within the scope of an investigation"; "outside the reach of the law"; "in the political orbit of a world power"

  3. compass, range, reach, graspnoun

    the limit of capability

    "within the compass of education"

  4. compassverb

    drafting instrument used for drawing circles

  5. compassverb

    bring about; accomplish

    "This writer attempts more than his talents can compass"

  6. circumnavigate, compassverb

    travel around, either by plane or ship

    "We compassed the earth"

  7. grok, get the picture, comprehend, savvy, dig, grasp, compass, apprehendverb

    get the meaning of something

    "Do you comprehend the meaning of this letter?"


  1. compassnoun

    A magnetic or electronic device used to determine the cardinal directions (usually magnetic or true north).

  2. compassnoun

    A pair of compasses (a device used to draw an arc or circle).

  3. compassnoun

    The range of notes of a musical instrument or voice.

  4. compassnoun

    A space within limits; area.

  5. compassnoun


  6. compassverb

    To surround; to encircle; to environ; to stretch round.

  7. compassverb

    To go about or round entirely; to traverse.

  8. compassverb

    To accomplish; to reach; to achieve; to obtain.

  9. compassverb

    To plot; to scheme (against someone).

  10. compassadverb

    In a circuit; round about.

  11. Etymology: For noun: from compas, from compas, from compassus, from com- + passus; see pass, pace.

Samuel Johnson's Dictionary

  1. Compassnoun

    Etymology: from the verb.

    This day I breathed first; time is come round;
    And where I did begin, there shall I end:
    My life is run its compass. William Shakespeare, Julius Cæsar.

    O, Juliet, I already know thy grief;
    It strains me past the compass of my wits. William Shakespeare.

    That which is out of the compass of any man’s power, is to that man impossible. Robert South, Sermons.

    How few there are may be justly bewailed, the compass of them extending but from the time of Hippocrates to that of Marcus Antoninus. William Temple.

    Animals in their generation are wiser than the sons of men; but their wisdom is confined to a few particulars; and lies in a very narrow compass. Joseph Addison, Spectator, №. 120.

    This author hath tried the force and compass of our language with much success. Jonathan Swift.

    No less than the compass of twelve books is taken up in these. Alexander Pope, Essay on Homer’s Battles.

    The English are good confederates in an enterprize which may be dispatched in a short compass of time. Joseph Addison, Freeholder.

    You have heard what hath been here done for the poor by the five hospitals and the workhouse, within the compass of one year, and towards the end of a long, expensive war. Francis Atterbury.

    And their mount Palatine,
    Th’ imperial palace, compass huge, and high
    The structure. John Milton, Paradise Regained, b. iv. l. 50.

    Old Rome from such a race deriv’d her birth,
    Which now on sev’n high hills triumphant reigns,
    And in that compass all the world contains. John Dryden, Virg Geor.

    Certain it is, that in two hundred years before (I speak within compass ) no such commission had been executed in either of these provinces. John Davies, on Ireland.

    Nothing is likelier to keep a man within compass than the having constantly before his eyes the state of his affairs, in a regular course of account. John Locke.

    You would sound me from my lowest note to the top of my compass. William Shakespeare, Hamlet.

    From harmony, from heavenly harmony,
    This universal frame began:
    From harmony to harmony,
    Through all the compass of the notes it ran,
    The diapason closing full in man. Dryden.

    If they be two, they are two so,
    As stiff twin compasses are two:
    Thy soul, the fixt foot, makes no show
    To move; but doth, if th’ other do. John Donne.

    In his hand
    He took the golden compasses, prepar’d
    In God’s eternal store, to circumscribe
    This universe, and all created things. John Milton, Parad Lost.

    To fix one foot of their compass wherever they think fit, and extend the other to such terrible lengths, without describing any circumference at all, is to leave us and themselves in a very uncertain state. Jonathan Swift, on Dissentions in Athens and Rome.

    The breath of religion fills the sails, profit is the compass by which factious men steer their course. Charles I .

    Rude as their ships was navigation then;
    No useful compass or meridian known:
    Coasting, they kept the land within their ken,
    And knew no North but when the pole-star shone. Dryden.

    With equal force the tempest blows by turns,
    From ev’ry corner of the seamen’s compass. Nicholas Rowe, J. Shore.

    He that first discovered the use of the compass, did more for the supplying and increase of useful commodities than those who built workhouses. John Locke.

  2. To COMPASSverb

    Etymology: compasser, Fr. compassare, Ital. passibus metiri, Latin.

    A darksome way,
    That deep descended through the hollow ground,
    And was with dread and horrour compassed around. Fairy Q.

    I see thee compass’d with thy kingdom’s peers,
    That speak my salutation in their minds. William Shakespeare, Macbeth.

    Now all the blessings
    Of a glad father compass thee about! William Shakespeare, Tempest.

    The shady trees cover him with their shadow: the willows of the brook compass him about. Job, xl. 22.

    Observe the crowds that compass him around. John Dryden, Virg.

    To dare that death, I will approach yet nigher;
    Thus, wert thou compassed with circling fire. Dryden.

    Old Chorineus compass’d thrice the crew,
    And dipp’d an olive-branch in holy dew,
    Which thrice he sprinkl’d round. John Dryden, Æn.

    Thine enemies shall cast a trench about thee, and compass thee round, and keep thee in on every side. Luke, xix. 43.

    That which by wisdom he saw to be requisite for that people, was by as great wisdom compassed. Richard Hooker, Preface.

    His master being one of great regard,
    In court to compass any suit not hard. Hubbard’s Tale.

    If I can check my erring love, I will;
    If not, to compass her I’ll use my skill. William Shakespeare.

    How can you hope to compass your designs,
    And not dissemble them? John Denham, Sophy.

    The knowledge of what is good and what is evil, what ought and what ought not to be done, is a thing too large to be compassed, and too hard to be mastered, without brains and study, parts and contemplation. South.

    He had a mind to make himself master of Weymouth, if he could compass it without engaging his army before it. Edward Hyde.

    The church of Rome createth titular patriarchs of Constantinople and Alexandria; so loth is the pope to lose the remembrance of any title that he hath once compassed. Edward Brerewood.

    Invention is the first part, and absolutely necessary to them both; yet no rule ever was, or ever can be given, how to compass it. John Dryden, Dufresnoy.

    In ev’ry work regard the writer’s end,
    Since none can compass more than they intend. Alexander Pope.


  1. Compass

    Compass is a song recorded by American country music group Lady Antebellum. The song was written by members of the pop/R&B production team Stargate, and was produced by Nathan Chapman and Lady Antebellum. It was released as the third overall single from the group's fifth studio album, Golden, on October 1, 2013 by Capitol Records Nashville, and is included on the deluxe edition re-issue of the album. In 2015, the song was used in the E3 world reveal trailer for the upcoming 2016 theme park simulation video game "Planet Coaster", which is being developed by Frontier Developments.


  1. compass

    A compass is a navigational instrument that consists of a magnetized needle or a magnetized card that aligns itself with the Earth's magnetic field, indicating the direction of magnetic north and enabling users to determine their bearings or headings relative to north, south, east, and west.

Webster Dictionary

  1. Compassnoun

    a passing round; circuit; circuitous course

  2. Compassnoun

    an inclosing limit; boundary; circumference; as, within the compass of an encircling wall

  3. Compassnoun

    an inclosed space; an area; extent

  4. Compassnoun

    extent; reach; sweep; capacity; sphere; as, the compass of his eye; the compass of imagination

  5. Compassnoun

    moderate bounds, limits of truth; moderation; due limits; -- used with within

  6. Compassnoun

    the range of notes, or tones, within the capacity of a voice or instrument

  7. Compassnoun

    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

  8. Compassnoun

    a pair of compasses

  9. Compassnoun

    a circle; a continent

  10. Compassverb

    to go about or entirely round; to make the circuit of

  11. Compassverb

    to inclose on all sides; to surround; to encircle; to environ; to invest; to besiege; -- used with about, round, around, and round about

  12. Compassverb

    to reach round; to circumvent; to get within one's power; to obtain; to accomplish

  13. Compassverb

    to curve; to bend into a circular form

  14. Compassverb

    to purpose; to intend; to imagine; to plot

  15. Etymology: [F. compasser, LL. compassare.]


  1. Compass

    A compass is a navigational instrument that shows directions in a frame of reference that is stationary relative to the surface of the earth. The frame of reference defines the four cardinal directions – north, south, east, and west. Intermediate directions are also defined. Usually, a diagram called a compass rose, which shows the directions, is marked on the compass. When the compass is in use, the rose is aligned with the real directions in the frame of reference, so, for example, the "N" mark on the rose really points to the north. Frequently, in addition to the rose or sometimes instead of it, angle markings in degrees are shown on the compass. North corresponds to zero degrees, and the angles increase clockwise, so east is 90 degrees, south is 180, and west is 270. These numbers allow the compass to show azimuths or bearings, which are commonly stated in this notation. The magnetic compass was first invented as a device for divination as early as the Chinese Han Dynasty. The compass was used in Song Dynasty China by the military for navigational orienteering by 1040-1044, and was used for maritime navigation by 1111 to 1117. The use of a compass is recorded in Western Europe between 1187 and 1202, and in Persia in 1232. The dry compass was invented in Europe around 1300. This was supplanted in the early 20th century by the liquid-filled magnetic compass.

Chambers 20th Century Dictionary

  1. Compass

    kum′pas, n. a circuit or circle: space: limit: range, a limit of tones of a voice or instrument: the circumference: girth: an instrument consisting of a magnetised needle, used to steer ships by, &c., the needle indicating on a card the absolute directions at any given time: (pl.) an instrument consisting of two movable legs, for describing circles, &c.—v.t. to pass or go round: to surround or enclose: to besiege: to bring about or obtain: to contrive or plot: to accomplish.—adj. Com′passable, capable of being compassed.—ns. Com′pass-card, the circular card of a compass; Com′passing, contrivance: design; Com′pass-plane, a plane, convex on the under side, for smoothing curved timber; Com′pass-saw, a saw that cuts in a circular manner; Com′pass-sig′nal, a signal denoting a point in the compass; Com′pass-tim′ber, curved timber, used for shipbuilding, &c.; Com′pass-win′dow, a semicircular bay-window.—Box the compass (see Box); Fetch a compass, to go round in a circuit. [Fr. compas, a circle, prob. from Low L. compassus—L. com, together, passus, a step.]

The Standard Electrical Dictionary

  1. Compass

    An apparatus for utilizing the directive force of the earth upon the magnetic needle. It consists of a circular case, within which is poised a magnetized bar of steel. This points approximately to the north, and is used on ships and elsewhere to constantly show the direction of the magnetic meridian. Two general types are used. In one the needle is mounted above a fixed "card" or dial, on which degrees or points of the compass, q. v., are inscribed. In the other the card is attached to the needle and rotates with it. The latter represents especially the type known as the mariner's compass. (See Compass, Mariner's--Compass, Spirit, and other titles under compass, also Magnetic Axis--Magnetic Elements.) The needle in good compasses carries for a bearing at its centre, a little agate cup, and a sharp brass pin is the point of support.

Dictionary of Nautical Terms

  1. compass

    An instrument employed by navigators to guide the ship's course at sea. It consists of a circular box, containing a fly or paper card, which represents the horizon, and is suspended by two concentric rings called gimbals. The fly is divided into thirty-two equal parts, by lines drawn from the centre to the circumference, called points or rhumbs; the interval between the points is subdivided into 360 degrees--consequently, the distance or angle comprehended between any two rhumbs is equal to 11 degrees and 15 minutes. The four cardinal points lie opposite to each other; the north and south points form top and bottom, leaving the east on the right hand, and the west on the left; the names of all the inferior points are compounded of these according to their situation. This card is attached to a magnetic needle, which, carrying the card round with it, points north, excepting for the local annual variation and the deviation caused by the iron in the ship; the angle which the course makes with that meridian is shown by the lubber's point, a dark line inside the box. (See ADJUSTMENT OF THE COMPASS.)

Editors Contribution

  1. compass

    A type of device or instrument.

    Compass are used throughout the world in navigational equipment.

    Submitted by MaryC on March 15, 2020  

Suggested Resources

  1. compass

    Song lyrics by compass -- Explore a large variety of song lyrics performed by compass on the Lyrics.com website.

Surnames Frequency by Census Records


    According to the U.S. Census Bureau, Compass is ranked #133863 in terms of the most common surnames in America.

    The Compass surname appeared 126 times in the 2010 census and if you were to sample 100,000 people in the United States, approximately 0 would have the surname Compass.

    55.5% or 70 total occurrences were Black.
    23.8% or 30 total occurrences were White.
    8.7% or 11 total occurrences were of Hispanic origin.
    7.9% or 10 total occurrences were Asian.
    3.9% or 5 total occurrences were of two or more races.

How to pronounce compass?

How to say compass in sign language?


  1. Chaldean Numerology

    The numerical value of compass in Chaldean Numerology is: 2

  2. Pythagorean Numerology

    The numerical value of compass in Pythagorean Numerology is: 5

Examples of compass in a Sentence

  1. Ronald Neumann:

    They think you can just give an order and march, it's kind of like trying to steer a ship with a compass and no map.

  2. Christen Kuikoua:

    Raise sons with love, not heroes. In everyday kindness and standing for what’s right, they become heroes in your eyes. Guide them like a compass, let love be their armor, and may the threads of their character weave an inspiring story in the tapestry of life.”

  3. William J. H. Boetcker:

    A man without religion or spiritual vision is like a captain who finds himself in the midst of an uncharted sea, without compass, rudder and steering wheel. He never knows where he is, which way he is going and where he is going to land.

  4. Daniel Webster:

    We may be tossed upon an ocean where we can see no land—nor, perhaps, the sun or stars. But there is a chart and a compass for us to study, to consult, and to obey. That chart is the Constitution.

  5. Vincent van Gogh:

    Conscience is a man's compass.

Popularity rank by frequency of use


Translations for compass

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    a rugged box (usually made of wood); used for shipping
    A serendipity
    B crate
    C concoction
    D muddle

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