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definition of the word compass

by the Wiktionnary

Compasses for drawing and cutting

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

For verb: < Middle English compassen (to go around, make a circuit, draw a circle, contrive, intend) < Old French compasser; from the noun; see compass as a noun.



compass (plural compasses)

  1. A magnetic or electronic device used to determine the cardinal directions (usually magnetic north).
  2. A pair of compasses (a device used with a pencil to draw an arc or circle on paper).
  3. The range of notes of a musical instrument or voice.
  4. (obsolete) A space within limits; area.
    • 1763, M. Le Page Du Pratz, History of Louisiana (PG), p. 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.
  5. scope
    • 1748. David Hume. Enquiries concerning the human understanding and concerning the principles of moral. London: Oxford University Press, 1973. § 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.

Definition from Wiktionary
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