• synonyms


[boo-ee, boi]
  1. 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.
  2. a life buoy.
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verb (used with object)
  1. 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.
  2. Nautical. to mark with a buoy or buoys.
  3. to sustain or encourage (often followed by up): Her courage was buoyed by the doctor's assurances.
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verb (used without object)
  1. to float or rise by reason of lightness.
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Origin of buoy

1425–75; late Middle English boye a float < Middle French *boie, boue(e) < Germanic; akin to beacon
Related formsun·buoyed, adjective
Can be confusedboy buoy


Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Related Words


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.

  • "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.

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

British Dictionary definitions for buoying


  1. a distinctively shaped and coloured float, anchored to the bottom, for designating moorings, navigable channels, or obstructions in a body of waterSee also life buoy
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  1. (tr usually foll by up) to prevent from sinkingthe belt buoyed him up
  2. (tr usually foll by up) to raise the spirits of; hearten
  3. (tr) nautical to mark (a channel or obstruction) with a buoy or buoys
  4. (intr) to rise to the surface
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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

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."

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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.

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Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper