Definition of fathom verb from the Oxford Advanced Learner's Dictionary

 

fathom

 verb
verb
BrE BrE//ˈfæðəm//
 
; NAmE NAmE//ˈfæðəm//
 
Verb Forms present simple I / you / we / they fathom
BrE BrE//ˈfæðəm//
 
; NAmE NAmE//ˈfæðəm//
 
he / she / it fathoms
BrE BrE//ˈfæðəmz//
 
; NAmE NAmE//ˈfæðəmz//
 
past simple fathomed
BrE BrE//ˈfæðəmd//
 
; NAmE NAmE//ˈfæðəmd//
 
past participle fathomed
BrE BrE//ˈfæðəmd//
 
; NAmE NAmE//ˈfæðəmd//
 
-ing form fathoming
BrE BrE//ˈfæðəmɪŋ//
 
; NAmE NAmE//ˈfæðəmɪŋ//
 
 
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to understand or find an explanation for something fathom somebody/something (out) It is hard to fathom the pain felt at the death of a child. fathom (out) what, where, etc… He couldn't fathom out what the man could possibly mean. Word Origin Old English fæthm, of Germanic origin; related to Dutch vadem, vaam and German Faden ‘six feet’. The original sense was ‘something which embraces’, (plural) ‘the outstretched arms’; hence, a unit of measurement based on the span of the outstretched arms, later standardized to six feet.Extra examples He couldn’t fathom out what the man could possibly mean. It’s hard to fathom the pain felt at the death of a child. She knew he was angry with her, for some reason she couldn’t fathom.
See the Oxford Advanced American Dictionary entry: fathom

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