drift

1 of 2

noun

plural drifts
1
a
: the act of driving something along
b
: the flow or the velocity of the current of a river or ocean stream
2
: something driven, propelled, or urged along or drawn together in a clump by or as if by a natural agency: such as
a
: wind-driven snow, rain, cloud, dust, or smoke usually at or near the ground surface
b(1)
: a mass of matter (such as sand) deposited together by or as if by wind or water
(2)
: a helter-skelter accumulation
c
d
: something (such 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
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
: something (such as a tool) driven down upon or forced into a body
5
: the motion or action of drifting especially spatially and usually under external influence: such 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 forgoing 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
f
: a deliberate, controlled skid by a vehicle turning through a corner at high speed : an instance of automotive drifting
Backing off the throttle on corner entries induces a soupçon of oversteer, just enough to allow a little sliding at the apex in an easily controlled four-wheel drift, that most delightful of sports-car experiences—when it doesn't hurl one off a cliff.Tony Swan

called also powerslide

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
a
: an assumed trend toward a general change in the structure of a language over a period of time
8
: a grouping of similar flowers planted in an elongated mass
drifty adjective

drift

2 of 2

verb

drifted; drifting; drifts

intransitive verb

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

transitive verb

1
a
: to cause to be driven in a current
b
Western US : to drive (livestock) slowly especially to allow grazing
2
a
: to pile in heaps
b
: to cover with drifts
driftingly adverb
Choose the Right Synonym for 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

Examples of drift in a Sentence

Noun the slow drift of the clouds As she got older, you could observe a drift in her writing towards more serious subjects. the government's drift towards a centralization of power Verb The boat slowly drifted out to sea. The clouds drifted across the sky. The snow drifted against the side of the house. Drifting snow covered most of the car. The party guests drifted from room to room, eating and mingling. Her eyes drifted across the crowd. The conversation drifted from topic to topic. My thoughts drifted back to the time when we first met. After he left the army he just drifted for a few years. She drifted from job to job.
Recent Examples on the Web
Noun
Center pin fishing is designed for long, drag-free drifts under a float. Max Inchausti, Field & Stream, 12 June 2024 Rugged scenery shifts from drift ice and mountain peaks to sparkling lakes and old-growth conifer forests. Lindsay Cohn, Travel + Leisure, 11 June 2024
Verb
Fluid morsels of matter drift through the scenes alongside it, recalling humanity but standing firmly outside any bounds equated with the species. Holly Jones, Variety, 15 June 2024 Her name already drifts around Rookie of the Year predictions, but Reese wouldn’t be one to add her voice to it. Katherine Fominykh, Baltimore Sun, 15 June 2024 See all Example Sentences for drift 

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'drift.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History

Etymology

Noun

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

First Known Use

Noun

14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1a

Verb

circa 1600, in the meaning defined at intransitive sense 3a

Time Traveler
The first known use of drift was in the 14th century

Dictionary Entries Near drift

Cite this Entry

“Drift.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/drift. Accessed 23 Jun. 2024.

Kids Definition

drift

1 of 2 noun
1
a
: a drifting motion or course
b
: the flow or the velocity of a river or ocean stream
2
a
: wind-driven snow, rain, cloud, dust, or smoke usually near the ground
b
: a mass of matter (as sand) deposited by or as if by wind or water
c
: a deposit of clay, sand, gravel, and boulders transported by a glacier or by running water from a glacier
3
a
: a course something appears to be taking
b
: the underlying meaning of what is said or written
following the drift of the conversation

drift

2 of 2 verb
1
: to become or cause to be driven or carried along by a current of water, wind, or air
2
: to move along without effort
3
: to be piled up in heaps by wind or water
driftingly adverb

Medical Definition

drift

noun
1
: movement of a tooth in the dental arch
2
drift intransitive verb

More from Merriam-Webster on drift

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