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 (kŭm′pəs, kŏm′-)
a. 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.
b. Another device, such as a radio compass or a gyrocompass, used for determining geographic direction.
2. 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. Also called pair of compasses.
3. Awareness or understanding of one's purpose or objectives: "Lacking a coherent intellectual and moral commitment, [he] was forced to find his compass in personal experience" (Doris Kearns Goodwin).
a. An enclosing line or boundary; a circumference: outside the compass of the fence. See Synonyms at circumference.
b. A restricted space or area: four huge crates within the compass of the elevator.
c. Range or scope, as of understanding, perception, or authority: The subject falls outside the compass of this study. See Synonyms at range.
5. Music See range.
tr.v. com·passed, com·pass·ing, com·pass·es
1. To make a circuit of; circle: The sailboat compassed the island.
2. To surround; encircle: The trees compass the grave.
3. To understand; comprehend: "God ... is too great a profundity to be compassed by human cerebration" (Flann O'Brian).
a. To accomplish or bring about: "He compassed his end only by the exercise of gentle violence" (Henry James).
b. To gain or achieve: "She had compassed the high felicity of seeing the two men beautifully take to each another" (Henry James).
5. To scheme; plot: compass the death of the king.
Forming a curve.

[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 pace1.]

com′pass·a·ble adj.
References in classic literature ?
But suddenly it seemed as if the speaker had begun pointing straight at him, as if he had singled him out particularly for his remarks; and so Jurgis became suddenly aware of his voice, trembling, vibrant with emotion, with pain and longing, with a burden of things unutterable, not to be compassed by words.
There have been two still greater ones, whose limit was four hundred and six hundred years, and one whose limit compassed even seven hundred and twenty.
Because, the other day, there arrived from Berlin a German and his wife--persons of some importance; and, it chanced that, when taking a walk, I spoke to them in German without having properly compassed the Berlin accent.