from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 5th Edition.

  • noun A device used to determine geographic direction, usually consisting of a magnetic needle or needles horizontally mounted or suspended and free to pivot until aligned with the earth's magnetic field.
  • noun Another device, such as a radio compass or a gyrocompass, used for determining geographic direction.
  • noun A V-shaped device for describing circles or circular arcs and for taking measurements, consisting of a pair of rigid, end-hinged legs, one of which is equipped with a pen, pencil, or other marker and the other with a sharp point providing a pivot about which the drawing leg is turned.
  • noun Awareness or understanding of one's purpose or objectives.
  • noun An enclosing line or boundary; a circumference: synonym: circumference.
  • noun A restricted space or area.
  • noun Range or scope, as of understanding, perception, or authority: synonym: range.
  • transitive verb To make a circuit of; circle.
  • transitive verb To surround; encircle.
  • transitive verb To understand; comprehend.
  • transitive verb To accomplish or bring about.
  • transitive verb To gain or achieve.
  • transitive verb To scheme; plot.
  • adjective Forming a curve.

from The Century Dictionary.

  • In a compass or curve; in archery, at an elevation.
  • To the limit.
  • noun [capitalized] In astronomy, a small southern constellation.
  • To stretch round; extend about so as to embrace; inclose; encircle; environ; surround.
  • To go about or round; make the circuit of.
  • To obtain; attain to; procure; gain; bring within one's power; accomplish.
  • To purpose; intend; imagine; plot; contrive.
  • To canvass; reflect upon; ponder.
  • To bend in the form of a circle or curve; make circular or curved: as, to compass timber for a ship.
  • Synonyms To achieve, bring about, effect, secure.
  • To grasp mentally; comprehend.
  • To adjust or orient by means of a compass.
  • To level a compass.
  • noun A circle.
  • noun Specifically—2. The circle of the earth.
  • noun A passing round or in a circle; a circular course; a circuit; round; circumference.
  • noun Range or extent within limits; hence, limit or boundary; limits.
  • noun In music, the total range or number of tones which a given voice or instrument is capable of producing.
  • noun Contrivance; scheme; plotting; plan.
  • noun An instrument used to indicate the magnetic meridian, or the direction of objects with reference to that meridian.
  • noun A mathematical instrument for describing circles, or for measuring figures, distances between two points, etc.: commonly in the plural.
  • noun In zoology, the radius of the dentary apparatus of a sea-urchin. See radius, and cut under lantern.
  • noun In archery, elevation of the arrow in shooting.
  • noun To keep within bounds.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English.

  • transitive verb To go about or entirely round; to make the circuit of.
  • transitive verb To inclose on all sides; to surround; to encircle; to environ; to invest; to besiege; -- used with about, round, around, and round about.
  • transitive verb To reach round; to circumvent; to get within one's power; to obtain; to accomplish.
  • transitive verb Obs. except in carpentry and shipbuilding. To curve; to bend into a circular form.
  • transitive verb (Law) To purpose; to intend; to imagine; to plot.
  • noun A passing round; circuit; circuitous course.
  • noun An inclosing limit; boundary; circumference.
  • noun An inclosed space; an area; extent.


from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

[Middle English compas, circle, compass, from Old French, from compasser, to measure, from Vulgar Latin *compassāre, to pace off : Latin com-, com- + Latin passus, step; see pace.]

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

For noun: from Middle English compas ("a circle, circuit, limit, form, a mathematical instrument"), from Old French compas, from Medieval Latin compassus ("a circle, a circuit"), from Latin com- ("together") + passus ("a pace, step, later a pass, way, route"); see pass, pace.


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  • But all ye Gods,

    Adore him, who to compass all this dies,

    Adore the Son, and honour him as mee.

    Milton, Paradise Lost III

    December 19, 2006