New English words to learn, What is the verb “Fathom”?

by Dec 22, 2018English Vocabulary

Suparno Bhattachayrra

Suparno Bhattachayrra

Community Author and Editor (India)

    • Leadership strengths (Level 12)
    • Community Writer(Level 3)


Useful English learning tips for beginners

Today I am going to show you one uncommon English word (verb)  “Fathom”. 


Thank you,

Suparno Bhattachayrra

Do you know the history and correct usage of the uncommon English word "Fathom"?


New English words to learn, What is Fathom? Fathom  is a verb |pronounce as “FA-thum”.

1 : probe
2 : to take soundings : to measure by a sounding line
3 : to penetrate and come to understand

Origin :
Fathom is derived from Old English fæthm, meaning “outstretched arms.” The noun fathom, 
which now commonly refers to a measure (especially of depth) of six feet, was originally used for the distance, fingertip to fingertip, created by stretching one’s arms straight out from the sides of the body. 

In one of its earliest uses, the verb fathom meant to encircle something with the arms as if for measuring and was also a synonym of embrace. In the 1600s, however, fathom took on the meaning of using a sounding line to measure depth. At the same time, the verb also developed senses synonymous with probe or investigate, and is now frequently used to refer to the act of getting to the bottom of something, figuratively speaking.

For Examples

  • The Western Shaft was sunk to a depth of forty fathoms.
  • Jules could not fathom the depth of the ocean.
  • He couldn’t fathom out what the man could possibly mean.
  • It is hard to fathom the pain felt at the death of a child.
  • For years people have been trying to fathom the mysteries of the whale’s song.
  • I can’t fathom her out — she says one thing then does another.

Thank you,

Suparno Bhattachayrra


Please join our Facebook learning English group [Become a confident English Speaker club] ( here for sharing of your useful English knowledge with friends,  helping many English learners and students. You can also meet smart but friendly English speaking partners,

Welcome to our elite “Become a confidence English speaker club” for emerging and confident future leaders. Our group members are the leaders of tomorrow, and they have helped ten of thousands of people with their knowledge and wisdom.

We are the English learning community only for leaders of English speaking and writing. Knowledge sharing is caring!