Compass vs Encompass - What's the difference?

compass | encompass |

As verbs the difference between compass and encompass

is that compass is to surround; to encircle; to environ; to stretch round while encompass is to form a circle around; to encircle.

As a noun compass

is a magnetic or electronic device used to determine the cardinal directions (usually magnetic or true north).

As an adverb compass

is (obsolete) in a circuit; round about.



  • A magnetic or electronic device used to determine the cardinal directions (usually magnetic or true north).
  • * John Locke
  • He that first discovered the use of the compass did more for the supplying and increase of useful commodities than those who built workhouses.
  • A pair of compasses (a device used to draw an arc or circle).
  • * Jonathan Swift
  • to fix one foot of their compass wherever they please
  • (music) The range of notes of a musical instrument or voice.
  • * Shakespeare
  • You would sound me from my lowest note to the top of my compass .
  • (obsolete) A space within limits; area.
  • * 1763 , M. Le Page Du Pratz, History of Louisiana (PG), page 47:
  • In going up the Missisippi [sic] , we meet with nothing remarkable before we come to the Detour aux Anglois, the English Reach: in that part the river takes a large compass .
  • * Addison
  • Their wisdom lies in a very narrow compass .
  • * 1913 ,
  • Clara thought she had never seen him look so small and mean. He was as if trying to get himself into the smallest possible compass .
  • (obsolete) An enclosing limit; boundary; circumference.
  • within the compass of an encircling wall
  • Moderate bounds, limits of truth; moderation; due limits; used with within .
  • * Sir J. Davies
  • In two hundred years before (I speak within compass ), no such commission had been executed.
  • Scope.
  • * Wordsworth
  • the compass of his argument
  • * 1748 , David Hume, Enquiries concerning the human understanding and concerning the principles of moral , Oxford University Press (1973), section 8:
  • There is a truth and falsehood in all propositions on this subject, and a truth and falsehood, which lie not beyond the compass of human understanding.
  • * 1844 , (Edgar Allan Poe),
  • How very commonly we hear it remarked that such and such thoughts are beyond the compass of words! I do not believe that any thought, properly so called, is out of the reach of language.
  • (obsolete) A passing round; circuit; circuitous course.
  • * Bible, 2 Kings iii. 9
  • They fetched a compass of seven days' journey.
  • * Shakespeare
  • This day I breathed first; time is come round, / And where I did begin, there shall I end; / My life is run his compass .


    * (magnetic direction finder) magnetic compass * (device used to draw circular curves) pair of compasses


    * (pair of compasses) beam compass

    Derived terms

    * beam compass * bow compass * compass card * compass error * compass needle * compass plant * compass point * compass rose * compass swing * gyrocompass * magnetic compass * mariner's compass * moral compass * pair of compasses * radio compass * telltale compass (pair of compasses) * beam compass


  • To surround; to encircle; to environ; to stretch round.
  • * 1610 , , by (William Shakespeare), act 5 scene 1
  • Now all the blessings
    Of a glad father compass thee about!
  • To go about or round entirely; to traverse.
  • (dated) To accomplish; to reach; to achieve; to obtain.
  • * 1763 , Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Emilius; or, an essay on education , translated by M. Nugent, page 117:
  • [...] they never find ways sufficient to compass that end.
  • * 1816 , Catholicon: or, the Christian Philosopher , volume 3, from July to December 1816, page 56:
  • [...] to settle the end of our action or disputation; and then to take fit and effectual means to compass that end.
  • * 1857 , Gilbert Burnet, Bishop Burnet's History of His Own Time: from the Restoration of King Charles the Second to the Treaty of Peace at Utrecht in the Reign of Queen Anne , page 657:
  • [...] and was an artful flatterer, when that was necessary to compass his end, in which generally he was successful.
  • * 1921 November 23, The New Republic , volume 28, number 364, page 2:
  • The immediate problem is how to compass that end: by the seizure of territory or by the cultivation of the goodwill of the people whose business she seeks.
  • (dated) To plot; to scheme (against someone).
  • * 1600', ''The Arraignment and Judgement of Captain Thomas Lee'', published in '''1809 , by R. Bagshaw, in ''Cobbett's Complete Collection of State Trials , volume 1, page 1403–04:
  • That he plotted and compassed to raise Sedition and Rebellion [...]
  • * 1794' November 1, ''Speech of Mr. Erskine in Behalf of Hardy'', published in '''1884 , by Chauncey Allen Goodrich, in ''Select British Eloquence , page 719:
  • But it went beyond it by the loose construction of compassing to depose the King, [...]
  • * 1915 , The Wireless Age , volume 2, page 580:
  • The Bavarian felt a mad wave of desire for her sweep over him. What scheme wouldn't he compass to mould that girl to his wishes.


    * *: And the name of the second river is Gihon: the same is it that compasseth the whole land of Ethiopia.


    * (surround) encircle, environ, surround * (go about or around entirely) cover, traverse * (accomplish) accomplish, achieve, attain, gain, get to, reach * conspire, plot, scheme


    (en adverb)
  • (obsolete) In a circuit; round about.
  • * 1658 , (w), Urne-Burial , Penguin (2005), ISBN 9780141023915, page 9:
  • Near the same plot of ground, for about six yards compasse were digged up coals and incinerated substances,


    * *




  • To form a circle around; to encircle.
  • To include within its scope; to circumscribe or go round so as to surround; to enclose; to contain.
  • To include completely; to describe fully or comprehensively.
  • This book on English grammar encompasses all irregular verbs.
  • To go around, especially, to circumnavigate.
  • Drake encompassed the globe.


    * comprehend * embrace * include


    * *