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