\ \ [OE] The underlying etymological meaning of fathom appears to be ‘stretching out, spreading’. It probably comes ultimately from the Indo-European base *pot-, *pet-, which also produced Latin patērebe open’ (source of English patent) and Greek pétalosoutspread’ (source of English petal). Its Germanic descendant was *fath-, which produced the noun *fathmaz, direct ancestor of Old English fæthm.
\ \ Here, the notion of ‘stretching out’ seems to have spread via ‘stretching out the arms’ to, on the one hand ‘embrace’ (and one meaning of Old English fæthm was ‘embrace, bosom’), and on the other ‘length spanned by outstretched arms’ – about six feet.

Word origins - 2ed. . 2005.

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  • Fathom — Fath om (f[a^][th] [u^]m), n. [OE. fadme, fa[eth]me, AS. f[ae][eth]m fathom, the embracing arms; akin to OS. fa[eth]mos the outstretched arms, D. vadem, vaam, fathom, OHG. fadom, fadum, G. faden fathom, thread, Icel. fa[eth]mr fathom, Sw. famn,… …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • fathom — ● fathom nom masculin (anglais fathom) Unité anglo saxonne de longueur, utilisée pour les profondeurs marines, équivalant à 6 feet ou 2 yards (environ 1,83 m). fathom [fazɔm] n. m. ÉTYM. Mil. XVIIIe; angl. fathom « longueur couverte par les deux… …   Encyclopédie Universelle

  • fathom — vb Fathom, sound, plumb all mean to measure the depth (as of a body of water) typically with a weighted line. Fathom implies a measuring in fathoms (units of six feet). Sound typically suggests the use of a sounding line in measuring, but it may… …   New Dictionary of Synonyms

  • fathom — FATHÓM s.m. (mar.) Unitate de măsură pentru lungimi, folosită la măsurarea adâncimilor, a parâmelor şi a lanţurilor de ancoră, egală cu 1,852 m. [pron. fatom. / < engl. fathom]. Trimis de LauraGellner, 21.03.2005. Sursa: DN  FATHOM TÓM/ s. m …   Dicționar Român

  • Fathom — bezeichnet: eine nautische Längeneinheit, siehe Nautischer Faden eine Geldeinheit, siehe Fathom (Geld) eine Serie des Comiczeichners Michael Turner eine Comicserie von Image Comics, siehe Fathom (Comic) Diese Seit …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • fathom — a unit of measurement of depth, is unchanged in the plural when preceded by a number, i.e. six fathom deep but several fathoms deep …   Modern English usage

  • fathom — ► NOUN ▪ a unit of length equal to six feet (1.8 metres), used in measuring the depth of water. ► VERB 1) understand after much thought: I can t fathom him out. 2) measure the depth of. DERIVATIVES fathomable adjective fathomless adjective …   English terms dictionary

  • Fathom — 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. [1913 Webster] 2. To measure by a sounding line;… …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • Fathom — (spr. Fäddhom), englisches Maß, so v.w. Faden (s.d.) …   Pierer's Universal-Lexikon

  • Fathom — (engl., spr. fädhöm, Faden), engl. Längenmaß von 2 Yards …   Meyers Großes Konversations-Lexikon

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