What does compass mean?

Definitions for compass
ˈkʌm pəscom·pass

Here are all the possible meanings and translations of the word compass.

Princeton's WordNet

  1. compass(noun)

    navigational instrument for finding directions

  2. scope, range, reach, orbit, compass, ambit(noun)

    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, grasp(noun)

    the limit of capability

    "within the compass of education"

  4. compass(verb)

    drafting instrument used for drawing circles

  5. compass(verb)

    bring about; accomplish

    "This writer attempts more than his talents can compass"

  6. circumnavigate, compass(verb)

    travel around, either by plane or ship

    "We compassed the earth"

  7. grok, get the picture, comprehend, savvy, dig, grasp, compass, apprehend(verb)

    get the meaning of something

    "Do you comprehend the meaning of this letter?"


  1. compass(Noun)

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

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

  2. compass(Noun)

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

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

  3. compass(Noun)

    The range of notes of a musical instrument or voice.

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

  4. compass(Noun)

    A space within limits; area.

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

  5. compass(Noun)


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

  6. compass(Verb)

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

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

  7. compass(Verb)

    To go about or round entirely; to traverse.

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

  8. compass(Verb)

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

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

  9. compass(Verb)

    To plot; to scheme (against someone).

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

  10. compass(Adverb)

    In a circuit; round about.

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

Webster Dictionary

  1. Compass(noun)

    a passing round; circuit; circuitous course

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

  2. Compass(noun)

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

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

  3. Compass(noun)

    an inclosed space; an area; extent

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

  4. Compass(noun)

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

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

  5. Compass(noun)

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

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

  6. Compass(noun)

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

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

  7. Compass(noun)

    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

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

  8. Compass(noun)

    a pair of compasses

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

  9. Compass(noun)

    a circle; a continent

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

  10. Compass(verb)

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

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

  11. Compass(verb)

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

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

  12. Compass(verb)

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

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

  13. Compass(verb)

    to curve; to bend into a circular form

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

  14. Compass(verb)

    to purpose; to intend; to imagine; to plot

    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.

How to pronounce compass?

  1. Alex
    US English

How to say compass in sign language?

  1. compass


  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. Joseph Addison:

    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.

  3. D. March:

    Proverbs are in the world of thought what gold coin is in the world of business - great value in small compass, and equally current among all people. Sometimes the proverb may be false, the coin counterfeit, but in both cases the false proves the value of the true.

  4. RJ Intindola:

    Intuition is like a compass that guides your decision-making process when answers are not readily available.

  5. LaDawnna Burnett, (1975-), Letters on Ethics:

    Shame is that intrinsic meter of our own heart to tell us that we have failed to follow our own moral compass.

Images & Illustrations of compass

  1. compasscompasscompasscompasscompass

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Translations for compass

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