• enPR: kŭmʹpəs, IPA: /ˈkʌm.pəs/

compass (plural compasses)

  1. A magnetic or electronic device used to determine the cardinal directions (usually magnetic or true north).
    • 1625, [Samuel] Purchas, “Of the Improvement of Nauigation in Later Times, […]”, in Pvrchas His Pilgrimes. […], 1st part, London: Printed by William Stansby for Henrie Fetherstone, […], OCLC 960103045 ↗, 2nd book, § I, page 2 ↗:
      [H]ow many Seas to our fore-fathers impaſſable, for want of the Compaſſe?
    • 1689/1690, John Locke, On improvement of understanding
      He that [...] first discovered the use of the compass [...] did more for the propagation of knowledge [...] than those who built workhouses.
    • 1890, Wilhelm Westhofen, The Forth Bridge
      a glance at his compass would have shown him that a northerly course instead of an easterly could not be right
  2. A pair of compasses (a device used to draw an arc or circle).
    • 1701, Jonathan Swift, A Discourse of the Contests and Dissensions between the Nobles and the Commons in Athens and Rome, Chapter 5
      to fix one foot of their compass wherever they please
  3. (music) The range of notes of a musical instrument or voice.
    • c. 1599–1602, William Shakespeare, “The Tragedie of Hamlet, Prince of Denmarke”, in Mr. William Shakespeares Comedies, Histories, & Tragedies: Published According to the True Originall Copies (First Folio), London: Printed by Isaac Iaggard, and Ed[ward] Blount, published 1623, OCLC 606515358 ↗, [Act III, scene ii]:
      You would sound me from my lowest note to the top of my compass.
  4. (obsolete) A space#Noun|space within limit#Noun|limits; an area.
    • 1763, M. Le Page Du Pratz, History of Louisiana (PG), page 47:
      In going up the Missisippi [sic], we meet with nothing remarkable before we come to the Detour aux Anglois, the English Reach: in that part the river takes a large compass.
    • 1711, Joseph Addison, The Spectator
      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.
    • 1913, D.H. Lawrence, Sons and Lovers, chapter 14
      Clara thought she had never seen him look so small and mean. He was as if trying to get himself into the smallest possible compass.
  5. (obsolete) An enclosing#Adjective|enclosing limit; a boundary, a circumference.
    within the compass of an encircling wall
    • 1624, John Smith, “The Present Estate of New-Plimoth”, in John Smith, The Generall Historie of Virginia, New-England, and the Summer Isles: […], London: Printed by I[ohn] D[awson] and I[ohn] H[aviland] for Michael Sparkes, OCLC 1049014009 ↗, book 6; republished as The Generall Historie of Virginia, [...], London: Printed by I[ohn] D[awson] and I[ohn] H[aviland] for Edward Blackmore, 1632, OCLC 55196040 ↗, page 247 ↗:
      [T]he Towne is impailed about halfe a mile compaſſe.
  6. Moderate bounds, limits of truth; moderation; due limits; used with within.
    • c. 1610, John Davies, Historical Tracts
      In two hundred years before (I speak within compass), no such commission had been executed.
  7. (archaic) scope.
    • 1814, William Wordsworth, The Excursion Book 8
      the compass of his argument
    • 1748, David Hume, Enquiries concerning the human understanding and concerning the principles of moral, Oxford University Press (1973), section 8:
      There is a truth and falsehood in all propositions on this subject, and a truth and falsehood, which lie not beyond the compass of human understanding.
    • 1844, Edgar Allan Poe, Marginalia
      How very commonly we hear it remarked that such and such thoughts are beyond the compass of words! I do not believe that any thought, properly so called, is out of the reach of language.
  8. (obsolete) A passing round; circuit; circuitous course.
    • 1611, King James Version, 2 Kings iii. 9
      They fetched a compass of seven days' journey.
    • 1599, William Shakespeare, “The Tragedie of Ivlivs Cæsar”, in Mr. William Shakespeares Comedies, Histories, & Tragedies: Published According to the True Originall Copies (First Folio), London: Printed by Isaac Iaggard, and Ed[ward] Blount, published 1623, OCLC 606515358 ↗, [Act V, scene iii]:
      This day I breathed first; time is come round, / And where I did begin, there shall I end; / My life is run his compass.
Synonyms Translations Translations
  • Russian: диапазо́н
Translations Translations
  • Portuguese: limite
  • Russian: охва́т

compass (compasses, present participle compassing; past and past participle compassed)

  1. To surround; to encircle; to environ; to stretch round.
    • 1610, The Tempest, by William Shakespeare, act 5 scene 1
      Now all the blessings
      Of a glad father compass thee about!
    • 1611, The Holy Bible, […] (King James Version), imprinted at London: By Robert Barker, […], OCLC 964384981 ↗, Genesis 2:13 ↗:
      And the name of the second river is Gihon: the same is it that compasseth the whole land of Ethiopia.
  2. To go about or round entirely; to traverse.
  3. (dated) To accomplish; to reach; to achieve; to obtain.
    • 1763, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Emilius; or, an essay on education, translated by M. Nugent, page 117:
      [...] they never find ways sufficient to compass that end.
    • 1816, Catholicon: or, the Christian Philosopher, volume 3, from July to December 1816, page 56:
      [...] to settle the end of our action or disputation; and then to take fit and effectual means to compass that end.
    • 1921 November 23, The New Republic, volume 28, number 364, page 2:
      The immediate problem is how to compass that end: by the seizure of territory or by the cultivation of the goodwill of the people whose business she seeks.
  4. (dated) To plot; to scheme (against someone).
    • 1600, The Arraignment and Judgement of Captain Thomas Lee, published in 1809, by R. Bagshaw, in Cobbett's Complete Collection of State Trials, volume 1, page 1403–04:
      That he plotted and compassed to raise Sedition and Rebellion [...]
    • 1794 November 1, Speech of Mr. Erskine in Behalf of Hardy, published in 1884, by Chauncey Allen Goodrich, in Select British Eloquence, page 719:
      But it went beyond it by the loose construction of compassing to depose the King, [...]
    • 1915, The Wireless Age, volume 2, page 580:
      The Bavarian felt a mad wave of desire for her sweep over him. What scheme wouldn't he compass to mould that girl to his wishes.
Synonyms Translations
  • Russian: охва́тывать


  1. (obsolete) In a circuit; round about.
    • 1658, Sir Thomas Browne, Urne-Burial,[ ] Penguin (2005), ISBN 9780141023915, page 9:
      Near the same plot of ground, for about six yards compasse were digged up coals and incinerated substances, […]

This text is extracted from the Wiktionary and it is available under the CC BY-SA 3.0 license | Terms and conditions | Privacy policy 0.004
Offline English dictionary