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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.


[ˈkʌmpəsɪz] npl (MATHEMATICS) (also pair of compasses) → compas m
References in classic literature ?
And, after a few convulsive efforts, the red legs tok the shape of a pair of compasses, and the intelligent pupil triumphantly shouted, "It's a We, Dranpa, it's a We
Tell me, does the magnetic virtue of the needles of the compasses of all those ships attract them thither?
Then staid the fervid Wheeles, and in his hand He took the golden Compasses, prepar'd In Gods Eternal store, to circumscribe This Universe, and all created things: One foot he center'd, and the other turn'd Round through the vast profunditie obscure, And said, thus farr extend, thus farr thy bounds, This be thy just Circumference, O World.
Under that, the miscellany began--a quadrant, a tin canikin, several sticks of tobacco, two brace of very handsome pistols, a piece of bar silver, an old Spanish watch and some other trinkets of little value and mostly of foreign make, a pair of compasses mounted with brass, and five or six curious West Indian shells.