Long before we had GPS (Global Positioning System) devices, people used a magnetic instrument called a compass for navigation. Some people still use a compass to navigate — usually when their GPS isn’t working.

Compass can also refer to another type of instrument, one that’s used for drawing circles; this should be familiar to you if you have ever studied geometry. In addition, compass can mean "range" or "scope." If you decide to hike the Appalachian Trail, using a compass (the navigational kind) should hopefully fall within your compass of ability. If not, we hope you own a reliable GPS.

Definitions of compass
  1. noun
    navigational instrument for finding directions
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    a compass that does not depend on magnetism but uses a gyroscope instead
    magnetic compass
    compass based on an indicator (as a magnetic needle) that points to the magnetic north
    compass card, mariner's compass
    compass in the form of a card that rotates so that 0 degrees or North points to magnetic north
    type of:
    navigational instrument
    an instrument used for navigating
  2. noun
    drafting instrument used for drawing circles
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    type of:
    drafting instrument
    an instrument used by a draftsman in making drawings
  3. noun
    an area in which something acts or operates or has power or control: "the range of a supersonic jet"
    “within the compass of this article”
    synonyms: ambit, orbit, range, reach, scope
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    approximate range, ballpark
    near to the scope or range of something
    confines, pale
    a bounded scope
    the range of optical density and tone on a photographic negative or print (or the extent to which adjacent areas on a television screen differ in brightness)
    internationalism, internationality
    quality of being international in scope
    scope for freedom of e.g. action or thought; freedom from restriction
    horizon, purview, view
    the range of interest or activity that can be anticipated
    expanse, sweep
    a wide scope
    a complete extent or range: "a face that expressed a gamut of emotions"
    a broad range of related objects, values, qualities, ideas, or activities
    palette, pallet
    the range of colour characteristic of a particular artist or painting or school of art
    type of:
    the distance or area or volume over which something extends
  4. noun
    the limit of capability
    “within the compass of education”
    synonyms: grasp, range, reach
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    ken, sight
    the range of vision
    type of:
    capability, capableness, potentiality
    an aptitude that may be developed
  5. verb
    travel around, either by plane or ship
    “We compassed the earth”
    synonyms: circumnavigate
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    type of:
    travel around something
  6. verb
    bring about; accomplish
    “This writer attempts more than his talents can compass
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    type of:
    accomplish, achieve, attain, reach
    gain with effort
  7. verb
    get the meaning of something
    synonyms: apprehend, comprehend, dig, get the picture, grasp, grok, savvy
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    catch on, cotton on, get it, get onto, get wise, latch on, tumble, twig
    understand, usually after some initial difficulty
    know or grasp by intuition or feeling
    digest, process
    arrange and integrate in the mind
    type of:
    know and comprehend the nature or meaning of
Word Family

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