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  • past participle of fathom (verb)
  • past indicative (I,you,he,she,it,we,they) of fathom (verb)

definitions - fathomed

fathom (v. trans.)

1.to look at critically or searchingly, or in minute detail"he scrutinized his likeness in the mirror"

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

3.come to understand

fathom (n.)

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

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

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Merriam Webster

FathomFath"om (fă�"ŭm), n. [OE. fadme, faðme, AS. fæðm fathom, the embracing arms; akin to OS. faðmos the outstretched arms, D. vadem, vaam, fathom, OHG. fadom, fadum, G. faden fathom, thread, Icel. faðmr fathom, Sw. famn, Dan. favn; cf. Gr. ���������� to spread out, ������� outspread, flat, L. patere to lie open, extend. Cf. Patent, Petal.]
1. 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. The measure or extant of one's capacity; depth, as of intellect; profundity; reach; penetration. [R.]

Another of his fathom they have none
To lead their business.

FathomFath"om, v. t. [imp. & p. p. Fathomed (?); p. pr. & vb. n. Fathoming.]
1. To encompass with the arms extended or encircling; to measure by throwing the arms about; to span. [Obs.] Purchas.

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

The page of life that was spread out before me seemed dull and commonplace, only because I had not fathomed its deeper import. Hawthotne.

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definition (more)

definition of Wikipedia

synonyms - fathomed


analogical dictionary


cogitate; ruminate; ponder; consider; reflect; contemplate; think[Classe]

exercer une action sur soi-même (fr)[Classe...]

dire la vérité (fr)[Classe]

faire se manifester ce qui était latent (fr)[Classe]

communicate; impart; inform; let know[Classe]

découvrir par un effort de l'esprit (fr)[Classe]

verification; control; supervision; checking; check; checkout; check-out procedure[Classe]

recherche méthodique (fr)[Classe]

analyse (fr)[Classe...]

(ken; comprehension; understanding; appreciation; grasp; hold), (intelligibility)[Thème]

(undercover; covert; sneaky; stealthy; surreptitious; secret; sneaking; unavowed), (secret; undercover)[Thème]

(sensor; detector), (orientation; localization; localisation; location; locating; fix)[Thème]




going-over, investigating, investigation - gaze, glance, look, looking, looking at, stare - catch some Z's, kip, log Z's, sleep, slumber[Hyper.]

examination, scrutiny - examiner, inspector - audit, inspect, scrutinise, scrutinize - examine, see - be on to, fathom, latch onto, penetrate, round-up, scrutinise, scrutinize, see through, size up, take stock - candidate's representative, canvasser, election agent, poll agent, poll representative, representative of the candidate, scrutineer, teller - aestivation, estivation[Dérivé]

cast a quick glance at, eye, glance at, have a dekko at, have a look, have a look at, look, look at, look on, pass one's eye over, peep at, take a look at, take a quick glance at, watch[Domaine]

hibernate, hole up[Ant.]

fathom (v. tr.)



1 fathom =
SI units
1.82880 m 182.880 cm
US customary / Imperial units
6.00000 ft 72.0000 in

A fathom (abbreviation: ftm) = 1.8288 meters, 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 (6 feet) in an imperial or U.S. fathom.[1] Originally based on the distance between the 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+12 feet (1.5–1.7 m).

The name derives from the Old English word fæðm meaning embracing arms or a pair of outstretched arms.[2][3][4] 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 a fourth of a fathom.

Abbreviations: f, fath, fm, fth, fthm.


  International fathom

One fathom is equal to:

  • 1.8288 metres exactly (1 metre is about 0.5468 fathoms)
  • 2 yards (1 yard is exactly 0.5 fathoms)
  • 6 feet (1 foot is about 0.1667 fathoms)
  • 18 hands
  • 72 inches

In 1959 the United States, Australia, Canada, New Zealand, South Africa, and the United Kingdom defined the length of the international yard to be exactly 0.9144 metre. With the adoption of the metric SI system the use of fathoms declined.

  British fathom

The British Admiralty defined a fathom to be a thousandth of an imperial nautical mile (which was 6080 ft) or 6.08 feet (1.85 m). In practice the "warship fathom" of exactly 6 feet (1.8 m) was used in Britain and the United States.[5] No conflict in the real world existed as depths on Imperial nautical charts were indicated in feet if less than 30 feet (9.1 m) and in fathoms for depths above that. Until the 19th century in England, the length of the fathom was more variable: from 5½ feet on merchant vessels to either 5 feet (1.5 m) or 7 feet (2.1 m) on fishing vessels (from 1.7 to 1.5 or 2.1 m).[5]

  Use of the fathom

  Water depth

Most modern nautical charts indicate depth in metres. However, the U.S. Hydrographic Office uses feet and fathoms.[6] A nautical chart will always explicitly indicate the units of depth used.

To measure the depth of shallow waters, boatmen used a sounding line containing fathom points, some marked and others in between, called deeps, unmarked but estimated by the user.[7] Water near the coast and not too deep to be fathomed by a hand sounding line was referred to as in soundings or on soundings.[8] The area offshore beyond the 100 fathom line, too deep to be fathomed by a hand sounding line, was referred to as offsoundings or out of soundings.[9] A deep-sea lead, the heaviest of sounding leads, was used in water exceeding 100 fathoms in depth.[10]

This technique has been superseded by sonic depth finders for measuring mechanically the depth of water beneath a ship, one version of which is the Fathometer (trademark).[11] The record made by such a device is a fathogram.[12] A fathom line or fathom curve, a usually sinuous line on a nautical chart, joins all points having the same depth of water, thereby indicating the contour of the ocean floor.[13]

  Line length

The components of a commercial fisherman's setline were measured in fathoms. The rope called a groundline, used to form the main line of a setline, was usually provided in bundles of 300 fathoms. A single 50-fathom skein (91 m) of this rope was referred to as a line. Especially in Pacific coast fisheries the setline was composed of units called skates, each consisting of several hundred fathoms of groundline, with gangions and hooks attached. A tuck seine or tuck net about 70 fathoms long (130 m), and very deep in the middle, was used to take fish from a larger seine.

A line attached to a whaling harpoon was about 150 fathoms long (270 m). A forerunner — a piece of cloth tied on a ship's log line some fathoms from the outboard end — marked the limit of drift line. A kite was a drag, towed under water at any depth up to about 40 fathoms, which upon striking bottom, was upset and rose to the surface.

A shot, one of the forged lengths of chain joined by shackles to form an anchor cable, was usually 15 fathoms long (27 m).

In Finland, fathom (syli) is sometimes, albeit seldom, used as a maritime unit, 11000 of a nautical mile and 1100 of cable length.


It is customary, when burying the dead, to inter the corpse at a fathom's depth, or six feet under. A burial at sea (where the body is weighted to force it to the bottom) requires a minimum of six fathoms of water. This is the origin of the phrase "to deep six" as meaning to discard, or dispose of.[14]

  On land

Until early in the 20th century, it was the unit used to measure the depth of mines (mineral extraction) in the United Kingdom.[15] Miners also use it as a unit of area equal to 6 square feet (0.56 m2) in the plane of a vein.[2] In Britain, it can mean the quantity of wood in a pile of any length measuring 6 feet (1.8 m) square in cross section.[2]

  See also



  1. ^ Encyclopædia Britannica eleventh edition 1911.
  2. ^ a b c Oxford English Dictionary, second edition, 1989;
  3. ^ Bosworth, Joseph; Thomas Toller (ed.) (1898). An Anglo-Saxon Dictionary. Oxford, England: Clarendon Press. http://beowulf.engl.uky.edu/cgi-bin/Bosworth-Toller/ebind2html3.cgi/bosworth?seq=285. 
  4. ^ Fathom - Definition from the Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary.
  5. ^ a b Fenna (2000: 88-89)
  6. ^ "NOAA Chart". http://www.oceangrafix.com/o.g/Charts/chartViewer.html?viewRegion=GreatLakes&viewChart=Lake-Huron. Retrieved 2008-05-22. 
  7. ^ Sounding lead. By James Mathews. Navy & Marine Living History Association.
  8. ^ Burney: "Vocbulary of Sea Terms", 1876.
  9. ^ MarineWaypoints.com - Nautical Glossary. SandyBay.net - Marine Directory (MarineWaypoints.com) and Reference Directory (StarDots.com).
  10. ^ The new way and the old; how the sounding machine has superseded the deep sea lead. The New York Times, June 6, 1892, page 5.
  11. ^ Field Procedures Manual, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Office of Coast Survey. May 2008. In chapter 7, Glossary, page 252.
  12. ^ Hydrographic Manual. By Captain Karl B. Jeffers. Publication 20-2, Coast and Geodetic Survey, U. S. Department Of Commerce. Posted by the Hydrographic Society of America.
  13. ^ Glossary of Marine Navigation. Page 763. I'd Rather Be Sailing.
  14. ^ Hirsch, Jr, E.D.; Kett, Joseph F; Trefi, James (2002). The New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy. Boston, MA: Houghton Mifflin. ISBN 0-618-22647-8. 
  15. ^ "Mining Encyclopaedia". U.K. Mine and Quarry Information and Exploration. http://www.mine-explorer.co.uk/open-htm-white-paper.asp?id=4. Retrieved 2007-05-28. 


  • Fenna, Donald (2002). "fathom". A Dictionary of Weights, Measures, and Units. Oxford: University Press. ISBN 0-19-860522-6 .

  External links



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