Definition of rhumb in US English:



  • 1An imaginary line on the earth's surface cutting all meridians at the same angle, used as the standard method of plotting a ship's course on a chart.

    • ‘A new globe which he produced in 1541 was the first to have rhumb lines shown on it.’
    • ‘For the past ten hours Hornblower had overseen the changing of course from the larboard to the starboard tack, seeking to gain the latitude of Gibraltar, then sail straight in on a rhumb line.’
    • ‘The ‘rhumb’ lines that criss-cross the map are designed to aid compass bearings, allowing navigators to sail reasonably accurate courses.’
    • ‘Then, we'll sail on a rhumb line straight in and hope the only ships we meet are ours.’
    • ‘‘It has become a real tactical dual as to whether you'd go straight down the rhumb line (most direct route) or you go wide,’ Peter Campbell from Sydney's Cruising Yacht Club said.’
  • 2Any of the 32 points of the compass.


Late 16th century: from French rumb (earlier ryn (de vent) ‘point of the compass’), probably from Dutch ruim ‘space, room’. The spelling change was due to association with Latin rhombus (see rhombus).