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noun \ˈdrift\

Simple Definition of drift

  • : a slow and gradual movement or change from one place, condition, etc., to another

  • : a large pile of snow or sand that has been blown by the wind

  • : the general or basic meaning of something said or written

Source: Merriam-Webster's Learner's Dictionary

Full Definition of drift

  1. 1 a :  the act of driving something along b :  the flow or the velocity of the current of a river or ocean stream

  2. 2 :  something driven, propelled, or urged along or drawn together in a clump by or as if by a natural agency: as a :  wind-driven snow, rain, cloud, dust, or smoke usually at or near the ground surface b (1) :  a mass of matter (as sand) deposited together by or as if by wind or water (2) :  a helter-skelter accumulation c :  drove, flock d :  something (as driftwood) washed ashore e :  rock debris deposited by natural agents; specifically :  a deposit of clay, sand, gravel, and boulders transported by a glacier or by running water from a glacier

  3. 3 a :  a general underlying design or tendency <perceiving the drift of the government's policies> b :  the underlying meaning, import, or purport of what is spoken or written <the drift of a conversation>

  4. 4 :  something (as a tool) driven down upon or forced into a body

  5. 5 :  the motion or action of drifting especially spatially and usually under external influence: as a :  the lateral motion of an aircraft due to air currents b :  an easy moderate more or less steady flow or sweep along a spatial course c :  a gradual shift in attitude, opinion, or position d :  an aimless course; especially :  a foregoing of any attempt at direction or control e :  a deviation from a true reproduction, representation, or reading ; especially :  a gradual change in the zero reading of an instrument or in any quantitative characteristic that is supposed to remain constant

  6. 6 a :  a nearly horizontal mine passageway driven on or parallel to the course of a vein or rock stratum b :  a small crosscut in a mine connecting two larger tunnels

  7. 7 a :  an assumed trend toward a general change in the structure of a language over a period of time b :  genetic drift

  8. 8 :  a grouping of similar flowers planted in an elongated mass


play \ˈdrif-tē\ adjective

Examples of drift in a sentence

  1. the slow drift of the clouds

  2. As she got older, you could observe a drift in her writing towards more serious subjects.

  3. the government's drift towards a centralization of power

Origin and Etymology of drift

Middle English; akin to Old English drīfan to drive — more at drive

First Known Use: 14th century

Synonym Discussion of drift

tendency, trend, drift, tenor, current mean movement in a particular direction. tendency implies an inclination sometimes amounting to an impelling force <a general tendency toward inflation>. trend applies to the general direction maintained by a winding or irregular course <the long-term trend of the stock market is upward>. drift may apply to a tendency determined by external forces <the drift of the population away from large cities> or it may apply to an underlying or obscure trend of meaning or discourse <got the drift of her argument>. tenor stresses a clearly perceptible direction and a continuous, undeviating course <the tenor of the times>. current implies a clearly defined but not necessarily unalterable course <an encounter that changed the current of my life>.




Simple Definition of drift

  • : to move slowly on water, wind, etc.

  • of snow or sand : to form a pile by being blown by the wind : to form a drift

  • : to move smoothly or easily in a way that is not planned or guided

Source: Merriam-Webster's Learner's Dictionary

Full Definition of drift

  1. intransitive verb
  2. 1 a :  to become driven or carried along (as by a current of water, wind, or air) <a balloon drifting in the wind> b :  to move or float smoothly and effortlessly

  3. 2 a :  to move along a line of least resistance b :  to move in a random or casual way c :  to become carried along subject to no guidance or control <the talk drifted from topic to topic>

  4. 3 a :  to accumulate in a mass or become piled up in heaps by wind or water <drifting snow> b :  to become covered with a drift

  5. 4 :  to vary or deviate from a set course or adjustment

  6. transitive verb
  7. 1 a :  to cause to be driven in a current b West :  to drive (livestock) slowly especially to allow grazing

  8. 2 a :  to pile in heaps b :  to cover with drifts


play \ˈdrif-tiŋ-lē\ adverb

Examples of drift in a sentence

  1. The boat slowly drifted out to sea.

  2. The clouds drifted across the sky.

  3. The snow drifted against the side of the house.

  4. Drifting snow covered most of the car.

  5. The party guests drifted from room to room, eating and mingling.

  6. Her eyes drifted across the crowd.

  7. The conversation drifted from topic to topic.

  8. My thoughts drifted back to the time when we first met.

  9. After he left the army he just drifted for a few years.

  10. She drifted from job to job.

Circa 1600

First Known Use of drift

circa 1600

DRIFT Defined for Kids



noun \ˈdrift\

Definition of drift for Students

  1. 1 :  the slow movement of something carried by wind or water

  2. 2 :  a pile of something that has been blown by the wind <a drift of snow>

  3. 3 :  a course something appears to be taking <the drift of the conversation>

  4. 4 :  the meaning of something said or implied <I don't get your drift.>




Definition of drift for Students



  1. 1 :  to move slowly on wind or water

  2. 2 :  to be piled up by wind or water <drifting sand>

  3. 3 :  to move along or change without effort or purpose <She drifts from job to job.> <He drifted in and out of sleep.>



Medical Dictionary


noun \ˈdrift\

Medical Definition of drift

  1. 1:  movement of a tooth in the dental arch

  2. 2:  genetic drift


intransitive verb

Seen and Heard

What made you want to look up drift? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


to depart quickly

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