1 of 3

noun (1)

plural drones
: a stingless male bee (as of the honeybee) that has the role of mating with the queen and does not gather nectar or pollen
At some point, usually around late spring or early summer in the Midwest, thousands of worker bees and drones—half or more of the colony's total population—may fly away with the old queen to find a new home.Jim Doherty and Terry Domico
: an uncrewed aircraft or vessel guided by remote control or onboard computers: such as
: a small remotely-operated rotorcraft usually with a mounted camera
We drifted past a man who was operating a quadcopter drone with a GoPro attached. It swooped over us and then receded upriver.Nick Paumgarten
Some particularly dramatic drone footage shows the lava field advancing on a neighborhood.Eric Mack
: an uncrewed military aircraft or vessel
Armed drones contribute to the illusion that wars can be won on the cheap.Sarah Kreps and Paul Lushenko
Designed and built in the UK, Taranis is one of the biggest military drones on the battlefield, with a wingspan of almost 12 metres.How It Works Magazine
… waterborne drones are already being deployed by the Navy's 5th Fleet in the waters off the Middle East.David Sharp
Boeing is modifying the retired Lockheed Martin-built F-16s into target dronesFlight International
The CIA has used pilotless drone planes, or unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), to carry out attacks in countries including Afghanistan and Pakistan.Mark Thomas
If a two-year trial is successful, the Navy might consider developing drone ships for other tasks, such as deactivating unexploded mines.Kelsey Atherton and Sarah Fecht
As the U.S. slashes budgets, the lethality and cost-effectiveness of drone strikes will likely make them an even more attractive option.Carla Anne Robbins
The military is developing these technologies to defend against drone attacks.Iain Boyd
: a person who is obliged to do menial work : drudge sense 1
: a person whose work is routine and boring : drudge sense 2
one of many office drones
: someone or something that lives on the labors of others : parasite
… a new Utopia in which robots … do all the work while human drones recline in pneumatic bliss.John Diebold


2 of 3


droned; droning

intransitive verb

: to make a sustained deep murmuring, humming, or buzzing sound
droning bees
The air conditioner droned.
: to talk in a persistently dull or monotonous tone
droning on and on about his health
: to pass, proceed, or act in a dull, drowsy, or indifferent manner
The afternoon droned on.

transitive verb

: to utter or pronounce with a drone
: to pass or spend in dull or monotonous activity or in idleness
droning the years away
droner noun
droningly adverb


3 of 3

noun (2)

: a deep sustained or monotonous sound : hum
the drone of the motor
music : an instrument or part of an instrument (such as one of the fixed-pitch pipes of a bagpipe) that sounds a continuous unvarying tone
music : pedal point

Examples of drone in a Sentence

Verb We could hear wasps droning in the garden. the sound of droning bees all around us
Recent Examples on the Web
Almost like a Dobro — if anyone's familiar with that — with a droning tone on it. Brenton Blanchet, Peoplemag, 23 Feb. 2024 Some have proposed Special Forces raids, others drone strikes, others naval blockades. Christian Schneider, National Review, 21 Dec. 2023 The result is the drifting synth waltzes and accordion laments, a set that transmutes the instrument’s droning tones into a sweep of introspective, breath-catching moments of beauty. Pitchfork, 14 Dec. 2023 The surprise drop came a month after Ocean sneaked out another snippet on his Story on Nov. 8, a minute-long, unnamed moody track on which he was heard crooning over a droning keyboard. Gil Kaufman, Billboard, 8 Dec. 2023 Advertisement Now, the most intriguing story line surrounding New England is how long Bill Belichick will last and how contentious his droning postgame news conferences can get. Sam Farmer, Los Angeles Times, 3 Dec. 2023 In audio captured here, Ocean can be heard crooning in his hazy manner over a droning keyboard, with the lyrics coming through only in brief, intelligible bits as the words often slide together in a blur. Gil Kaufman, Billboard, 9 Nov. 2023 Just as droning strings can transform a humdrum street into a threatening alley, Fang uses her sound effects to prime our emotions. WIRED, 18 Sep. 2023 Bury your foot in the throttle—an exercise few Murano buyers will do frequently—and the CVT spikes the engine revs and holds them there, resulting in a loud, droning growl from under the hood. Drew Dorian, Car and Driver, 8 Sep. 2023
The drone is able to carry an array of payloads including munitions. Vikram Mittal, Forbes, 25 Feb. 2024 The stakes are especially high in Niger, where the United States has deployed more than 1,000 soldiers and operates a drone base that officials say is vital for surveillance of extremist groups in the Sahel region, which runs across Africa just below the Sahara Desert. Michael Birnbaum, Washington Post, 25 Feb. 2024 The screen flashes to a drone shot of downtown, a quick cut to a closeup of Los Angeles County Dist. Sonja Sharp, Los Angeles Times, 24 Feb. 2024 American warplanes and a ship belonging to a member of the U.S.-led coalition shot down six Houthi attack drones in the Red Sea, Central Command said in another statement. Eric Schmitt, New York Times, 24 Feb. 2024 On May 3, two explosive drones targeted the Kremlin, in the heart of the capital. Sophie Tanno, CNN, 24 Feb. 2024 Central Command in recent days acknowledged destroying an underwater bomb-carrying Houthi drone. Jon Gambrell, Quartz, 22 Feb. 2024 Green makes the Pearl drone following Agent 8 more helpful adding the ability to attack and other power-ups. Gieson Cacho, The Mercury News, 13 Feb. 2024 There is a risk of escalation in the Middle East, especially with the death of three U.S. soldiers after a drone strike in Jordan. Gil Barndollar, TIME, 12 Feb. 2024 See More

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

Word History


Noun (1), Verb, and Noun (2)

Middle English, from Old English drān; akin to Old High German treno drone, Greek thrēnos dirge

First Known Use

Noun (1)

before the 12th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1


circa 1520, in the meaning defined at intransitive sense 1a

Noun (2)

1502, in the meaning defined at sense 2

Time Traveler
The first known use of drone was before the 12th century

Dictionary Entries Near drone

Cite this Entry

“Drone.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/drone. Accessed 29 Feb. 2024.

Kids Definition


1 of 3 noun
: a stingless male bee (as of the honeybee) whose only function is to mate with the queen bee
: a lazy person
: an aircraft or ship without a pilot that is controlled by radio signals


2 of 3 verb
droned; droning
: to make or speak with a continuous low humming sound
a plane droning overhead
droned on about himself


3 of 3 noun
: one of the pipes on a bagpipe that sound fixed continuous tones
: a deep monotonous sound : hum

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