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[boo-ee, boi] /ˈbu i, bɔɪ/
Nautical. a distinctively shaped and marked float, sometimes carrying a signal or signals, anchored to mark a channel, anchorage, navigational hazard, etc., or to provide a mooring place away from the shore.
verb (used with object)
to keep afloat or support by or as if by a life buoy; keep from sinking (often followed by up):
The life jacket buoyed her up until help arrived.
Nautical. to mark with a buoy or buoys.
to sustain or encourage (often followed by up):
Her courage was buoyed by the doctor's assurances.
verb (used without object)
to float or rise by reason of lightness.
Origin of buoy
late Middle English
1425-75; late Middle English boye a float < Middle French *boie, boue(e) < Germanic; akin to beacon
Related forms
unbuoyed, adjective
Can be confused
boy, buoy.
5. lift, uplift, boost, lighten; maintain, nurture. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018.
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Examples from the Web for buoying
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • The wine he had been imbibing was buoying him up, and he was inclined to be garrulous.

    The White Blackbird Hudson Douglas
  • Some of the sanguine spirits aboard this train are buoying themselves up with the idea of getting home.

    A Yeoman's Letters

    P. T. Ross
  • "I think it does," I struggled against the tide, manfully, buoying myself up with the tracing of the blotter.

  • Even in the early translation, the Manrique, the movement is as of strong and steady wind or tide, holding up and buoying.

    Complete Prose Works Walt Whitman
  • With the thoroughness that marked all his preparations, Perry spent another day in sounding on the bar and buoying the channel.

  • It did not affect the matter in hand, which was that the Teacher was buoying up a poor and unhappy old man with fruitless hopes.

    The Angel Cyril Arthur Edward Ranger Gull
  • There is no elaboration in the apparatus beyond that necessary to show the operation of buoying the vessel over the obstructions.

    McClure's Magazine December, 1895 Edited by Ida M. Tarbell
  • On the 19th the cable was once more hooked, and raised about a mile from the bottom, but the sea was too rough for buoying it.

  • Saxe, my lad,” said Dale sadly, “you are buoying yourself up with false hopes.

    The Crystal Hunters George Manville Fenn
British Dictionary definitions for buoying


/bɔɪ; US ˈbuːɪ/
a distinctively shaped and coloured float, anchored to the bottom, for designating moorings, navigable channels, or obstructions in a body of water See also life buoy
(transitive) usually foll by up. to prevent from sinking: the belt buoyed him up
(transitive) usually foll by up. to raise the spirits of; hearten
(transitive) (nautical) to mark (a channel or obstruction) with a buoy or buoys
(intransitive) to rise to the surface
Word Origin
C13: probably of Germanic origin; compare Middle Dutch boeie, boeye; see beacon
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for buoying



late 13c., perhaps from either Old French buie or Middle Dutch boeye, both from West Germanic *baukna "beacon, signal" (see beacon). OED, however, supports Middle Dutch boeie, or Old French boie "fetter, chain" (see boy), "because of its being fettered to a spot."



late 16c., "to mark with a buoy," from buoy (n.). Meaning "rise up, lift, sustain" is from c.1600, perhaps influenced by Spanish boyar "to float," ultimately from the same source. In the figurative sense (of hopes, spirits, etc.) it is recorded from 1640s. Related: Buoyed; buoying.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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