drift

noun
\ ˈdrift How to pronounce drift (audio) \

Definition of drift

 (Entry 1 of 2)

1a : 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 : drove, flock
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
3a : 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
6a : 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
7a : 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

drift

verb
drifted; drifting; drifts

Definition of drift (Entry 2 of 2)

intransitive verb

1a : 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
2a : 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
3a : 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

1a : to cause to be driven in a current
b Western US : to drive (livestock) slowly especially to allow grazing
2a : to pile in heaps
b : to cover with drifts

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Other Words from drift

Noun

drifty \ ˈdrif-​tē How to pronounce drifty (audio) \ adjective

Verb

driftingly \ ˈdrif-​tiŋ-​lē How to pronounce driftingly (audio) \ adverb

Synonyms & Antonyms for drift

Synonyms: Noun

bank, bar, mound

Synonyms: Verb

bowl, breeze, brush, coast, cruise, flow, glide, roll, sail, skim, slide, slip, stream, sweep, whisk

Antonyms: Verb

flounder, struggle

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Choose the Right Synonym for drift

Noun

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.
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Recent Examples on the Web: Noun

Falling away between granite walls and pines that poked out of deep billowy drifts, its untouched powder reflected the strong bluebird day sun. Alex Bhattacharji, Condé Nast Traveler, "Why Telluride Keeps Being Named the Best U.S. Ski Town," 5 Dec. 2018 Park rangers, interpretive guides and specialists provide reports on the best sightings: drifts of wild mustard in the foothills and along the coastal hills near Half Moon Bay, bright orange California poppies and fiddlenecks. Tom Stienstra, San Francisco Chronicle, "Northern California hot spots for spring wildflowers," 12 Apr. 2018 Outside, someone in a Polaris Slingshot gunned it through smokey drifts on a tight autocross course. Ezra Dyer, Popular Mechanics, "Car Shows Used to Be Amazing—And They Might Be Again," 5 Dec. 2018 But the European Union’s failure to curb Hungary’s drift toward authoritarianism has emboldened other leaders in the region, where right-wing nationalism and populism are on the rise. Marc Santora, New York Times, "Poland Purges Supreme Court, and Protesters Take to Streets," 3 July 2018 Depicting the view through a large window, the composition is dominated by a mimosa tree in full bloom, its dazzling yellow drifts captured in loose, open brush strokes. Susan Delson, WSJ, "An Artist of Time and Space," 4 Jan. 2019 Sunny skies in North Carolina and Virginia were helping to thaw out snow drifts left behind by the weekend storm, but temperatures were expected to plunge again, refreezing moisture on the roads Wednesday morning. Jonathan Drew, The Seattle Times, "Refreezing still a threat after snowstorm; rain on the way," 11 Dec. 2018 This drift is driven by electrons colliding with each other. Chris Lee, Ars Technica, "Technical tour-de-force traps positrons," 11 Dec. 2018 The country’s alarming drift back to authoritarianism and right-wing extremism is just the latest episode. András Szántó, Condé Nast Traveler, "Why Budapest Is Europe's Unlikely Capital of Hedonism," 29 Aug. 2018

Recent Examples on the Web: Verb

All the nerves of not knowing what to expect instantly drifted away. Maya Allen, Marie Claire, "I Got a Vagina Facial, and Honestly Loved It," 28 Feb. 2019 And Rooney Mara drifts a bit too spacily through the proceedings as Annu, a lovely Swedish therapist who embraces Callahan’s body and nurtures his art. Justin Chang, latimes.com, "Review: Joaquin Phoenix stars in the captivating addiction drama 'Don't Worry, He Won't Get Far on Foot'," 12 July 2018 The yield on the two-year Treasury note, which is highly sensitive to changes in monetary policy, has remained stuck at around 2.50%, while the 10-year yield has mostly drifted between 2.60% and 2.70%. Sam Goldfarb, WSJ, "Treasury Bond Prices Rise, With Trading in Narrow Range," 22 Feb. 2019 In all, the second video, the statement, and the Today interview seem to have worked to Sandmann’s advantage, as the focus of the media has drifted back to the government shutdown. Kate Storey, Town & Country, "Behind the PR Machine That Helped Change the Nick Sandmann Narrative," 25 Jan. 2019 That near-mythical place where idealists, romantics, and wanderers wash up, drifting in and dropping out, a sense of it glimpsed in Palermo, Antananarivo, Brazzaville. Horatio Clare, Condé Nast Traveler, "Why You Should Go to Belize Now," 21 Dec. 2018 Specifically, one of the water pipes leaked, sending about 2.5 gallons of water drifting throughout the station. Avery Thompson, Popular Mechanics, "ISS Suffers Toilet Malfunction, Leaks Water Everywhere," 6 Feb. 2019 The stuff good for making snowmen is dense and wet; the type that drifts is light and crisp. Vogue, "Raf Simons Conjured Silver Belles for Christian Dior’s Debut Pre-Fall Collection," 29 Dec. 2018 Herds of springbok, drifting across far slopes, lifted their heads as one, poised for flight. Stanley Stewart, Condé Nast Traveler, "Going Off-Grid in Namibia," 21 Dec. 2018

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'drift.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

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First Known Use of drift

Noun

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

Verb

circa 1600, in the meaning defined at intransitive sense 1a

History and Etymology for drift

Noun

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

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Statistics for drift

Last Updated

12 Mar 2019

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for drift

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

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More Definitions for drift

drift

noun

English Language Learners Definition of drift

 (Entry 1 of 2)

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

drift

verb

English Language Learners Definition of drift (Entry 2 of 2)

: 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

drift

noun
\ ˈdrift How to pronounce drift (audio) \

Kids Definition of drift

 (Entry 1 of 2)

1 : the slow movement of something carried by wind or water
2 : a pile of something that has been blown by the wind a drift of snow
3 : a course something appears to be taking the drift of the conversation
4 : the meaning of something said or implied I don't get your drift.

drift

verb
drifted; drifting

Kids Definition of drift (Entry 2 of 2)

1 : to move slowly on wind or water
2 : to be piled up by wind or water drifting sand
3 : to move along or change without effort or purpose She drifts from job to job. He drifted in and out of sleep.

Other Words from drift

drifter noun

drift

noun
\ ˈdrift How to pronounce drift (audio) \

Medical Definition of drift

1 : movement of a tooth in the dental arch

Other Words from drift

drift intransitive verb

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More from Merriam-Webster on drift

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with drift

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for drift

Spanish Central: Translation of drift

Nglish: Translation of drift for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of drift for Arabic Speakers

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