What does fathom mean?

Definitions for fathom
ˈfæð əmfath·om

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

Princeton's WordNet

  1. fathom, fthmnoun

    a linear unit of measurement (equal to 6 feet) for water depth

  2. fathom, fthmverb

    (mining) a unit of volume (equal to 6 cubic feet) used in measuring bodies of ore

  3. penetrate, fathom, bottomverb

    come to understand

  4. fathom, soundverb

    measure the depth of (a body of water) with a sounding line


  1. fathomnoun

    Grasp, envelopment, control.

  2. fathomnoun

    A measure of length corresponding to the outstretched arms, standardised to six feet, now used mainly for measuring depths in seas or oceans.

  3. fathomnoun

    Mental reach or scope; penetration; the extent of capacity; depth of thought or contrivance.

  4. fathomverb

    To encircle with outstretched arms, especially to take a measurement; to embrace.

  5. fathomverb

    To measure the depth of, take a sounding of.

  6. fathomverb

    To get to the bottom of; to manage to comprehend (a problem etc.).

    I can't for the life of me fathom what this means.

  7. Etymology: From fathome, fadome, from fæþm, fæþme, from faþmaz, from pet-. Cognate with fadem, faem, vadem, vaam, Faden, favn, famn, faðmur.

Samuel Johnson's Dictionary

  1. FATHOMnoun

    Etymology: fædm, Saxon.

    The extent of this fathom, or distance between the extremity of the fingers of either hand upon expansion, is equal unto the space between the sole of the foot and the crown. Thomas Browne, Vulgar Errours, b. iv. c. 5.

    The arms spread cross in a streight line, and measured from the end of the long finger on one hand to that of the other, made a measure equal to the stature, and is named a fathom. William Holder, on Time.

    Dive into the bottom of the deep,
    Where fathom line could never touch the ground. William Shakespeare, H. IV.

    Another of his fathom they have none
    To lead their business. William Shakespeare, Othello.

  2. To Fathomverb

    Etymology: from the noun.

    Leave, leave to fathom such high points as these;
    Nor be ambitious, ere the time, to please. John Dryden, Pers.

    ’Tis too strong for weak heads to try the heights and fathom the depths of his flights. Henry Felton, on the Classicks.

    Our depths who fathoms? Alexander Pope.


  1. Fathom

    A fathom is a unit of length in the imperial and the U.S. customary systems equal to 6 feet (1.8288 m), used especially for measuring the depth of water.There are two yards (6 feet) in an imperial fathom. Originally the span of a man's outstretched arms, the size of a fathom has varied slightly depending on whether it was defined as a thousandth of an (Admiralty) nautical mile or as a multiple of the imperial yard. Formerly, the term was used for any of several units of length varying around 5–5 1⁄2 feet (1.5–1.7 m).


  1. fathom

    A fathom is a unit of measurement used to determine the depth of water, equal to 6 feet (1.83 meters). Additionally, the term "fathom" can figuratively mean to comprehend or understand something deeply or thoroughly.

Webster Dictionary

  1. Fathomnoun

    a measure of length, containing six feet; the space to which a man can extend his arms; -- used chiefly in measuring cables, cordage, and the depth of navigable water by soundings

  2. Fathomnoun

    the measure or extant of one's capacity; depth, as of intellect; profundity; reach; penetration

  3. Fathomverb

    to encompass with the arms extended or encircling; to measure by throwing the arms about; to span

  4. Fathomverb

    the measure by a sounding line; especially, to sound the depth of; to penetrate, measure, and comprehend; to get to the bottom of

  5. Etymology: [OE. fadme, fame, AS. fm fathom, the embracing arms; akin to OS. famos the outstretched arms, D. vadem, vaam, fathom, OHG. fadom, fadum, G. faden fathom, thread, Icel. famr fathom, Sw. famn, Dan. favn; cf. Gr. to spread out, outspread, flat, L. patere to lie open, extend. Cf. Patent, Petal.]


  1. Fathom

    A fathom = 1.8288 metres, is a unit of length in the imperial and the U.S. customary systems, used especially for measuring the depth of water. There are two yards in an imperial or U.S. fathom. Originally based on the distance between a man's outstretched arms, the size of a fathom has varied slightly depending on whether it was defined as a thousandth of an nautical mile or as a multiple of the imperial yard. Formerly, the term was used for any of several units of length varying around 5–5+¹⁄2 feet. The name derives from the Old English word fæðm, corresponding to the old Frisian word "fadem" meaning embracing arms or a pair of outstretched arms. In Middle English it was fathme. A cable length, based on the length of a ship's cable, has been variously reckoned as equal to 100 or 120 fathoms. At one time, a quarter meant one-fourth of a fathom. Abbreviations: f, fath, fm, fth, fthm.

Chambers 20th Century Dictionary

  1. Fathom

    fath′um, n. a nautical measure=6 feet: depth: (Shak.) penetration.—v.t. to try the depth of: to comprehend or get to the bottom of.—adjs. Fath′omable; Fath′omless.—n. Fath′om-line, a sailor's line and lead for taking soundings. [A.S. faethm; Dut. vadem, Ger. faden.]

The Nuttall Encyclopedia

  1. Fathom

    a measure of 6 ft. used in taking marine soundings, originally an Anglo-Saxon term for the distance stretched by a man's extended arms; is sometimes used in mining operations.

Dictionary of Nautical Terms

  1. fathom

    [Anglo-Saxon, fædm]. The space of both arms extended. A measure of 6 feet, used in the length of cables, rigging, &c., and to divide the lead (or sounding) lines, for showing the depth of water.--To fathom, is to ascertain the depth of water by sounding. To conjecture an intention.

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How to say fathom in sign language?


  1. Chaldean Numerology

    The numerical value of fathom in Chaldean Numerology is: 2

  2. Pythagorean Numerology

    The numerical value of fathom in Pythagorean Numerology is: 9

Examples of fathom in a Sentence

  1. Phil Robertson:

    Arakan Army's hard to fathom that a government and its military could actually commit crimes against humanity against two different ethnic groups -- the Rohingya and Rakhine State -- in one province but somehow Myanmar has managed to do it, and now they need to be held accountable for it.

  2. Mary King:

    I ’m watching this as their social worker. I can not fathom what they themselves are feeling and what these little boys are feeling.

  3. Bob Jones:

    I take serious issue when somebody who's done a little non-fighting time in Iraq, and is not a Middle East or Islamic scholar, claims to know better than our President and Secretary of State how to fathom the motivations of terrorists, or how to refer to them beyond the term that best describes them -- terrorists.

  4. Keondra White Facebook -RRB- White:

    It was just pure disgust, something you can’t fathom seeing that.

  5. Matt Fairchild:

    I don't want to hurt ever, i can't fathom the idea of being in pain and not having a way out.

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Translations for fathom

From our Multilingual Translation Dictionary

  • سبر الغورArabic
  • клафтер, фатом, проумявам, разбирамBulgarian
  • comprendre, abraçar, braça, sondejarCatalan, Valencian
  • porozumět do hloubky, proniknout, sáhCzech
  • begribe, favn, fatteDanish
  • begreifen, sondieren, ausloten, Klafter, loten, verstehen, ergründen, Faden, umarmenGerman
  • sondar, ahondar, profundizar, abrazar, braza, sondear, comprenderSpanish
  • süldEstonian
  • luodata, käsittää, syli, syleilläFinnish
  • favnurFaroese
  • comprendre, brasse, saisirFrench
  • brazaGalician
  • थाह लेनाHindi
  • megért, rájön, öl, átölel, kitalálHungarian
  • capire, braccio, comprendereItalian
  • hiroJapanese
  • ჩასწვდება, სწვდებაGeorgian
  • aronui, whanganga, mārōMāori
  • depaMalay
  • vademDutch
  • favnNorwegian
  • sążeńPolish
  • compreender, braça, sondarPortuguese
  • măsura, apuca, sonda, fathom, braț, înțelege, pătrunde, îmbrățișaRomanian
  • исследовать, морская сажень, разузнавать, фадом, постигать, осознавать, обхватить, понимать, выяснять, делать промер лотом, фатом, измерять, расследоватьRussian
  • tr=vyamaSanskrit
  • hvat, хватSerbo-Croatian
  • siahaSlovak
  • objeti, seženj, izmeriti, dognatiSlovene
  • famna om, famn, loda, omfamnaSwedish
  • ஆழத்தைTamil
  • kulaçTurkish
  • 捉摸Chinese

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"fathom." Definitions.net. STANDS4 LLC, 2024. Web. 21 Jun 2024. <https://www.definitions.net/definition/fathom>.

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