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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 ?
You, too, publish your declaration of freedom with danger compassing you around.
By Night he fled, and at Midnight return'd From compassing the Earth, cautious of day, Since URIEL Regent of the Sun descri'd His entrance, and forewarnd the Cherubim That kept thir watch; thence full of anguish driv'n, The space of seven continu'd Nights he rode With darkness, thrice the Equinoctial Line He circl'd, four times cross'd the Carr of Night From Pole to Pole, traversing each Colure; On the eighth return'd, and on the Coast averse From entrance or Cherubic Watch, by stealth Found unsuspected way.
He tried, moreover, to cut off the ears of both of us, so we went away in a rage, furious about the payment he had promised us, and yet withheld; in spite of all this, you are now showing favour to his people, and will not join us in compassing the utter ruin of the proud Trojans with their wives and children.