Nearby words

  1. driegh,
  2. drier,
  3. dries,
  4. driesch,
  5. driest,
  6. drift anchor,
  7. drift angle,
  8. drift ice,
  9. drift indicator,
  10. drift lead

Origin of drift

1250–1300; Middle English drift, noun derivative of Old English drīfan to drive; cognate with Dutch drift “herd, flock,” German Trift “herd, pasturage, road to pasture”

Related formsdrift·ing·ly, adverbdrift·less, adjectivedrift·less·ness, nounun·drift·ing, adjective

Synonym study

7. See tendency. Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for drift

British Dictionary definitions for drift


verb (mainly intr)

(also tr) to be carried along by or as if by currents of air or water or (of a current) to carry (a vessel, etc) along
to move aimlessly from place to place or from one activity to another
to wander or move gradually away from a fixed course or point; stray
(also tr) (of snow, sand, etc) to accumulate in heaps or banks or to drive (snow, sand, etc) into heaps or banks


something piled up by the wind or current, such as a snowdrift
tendency, trend, meaning, or purportthe drift of the argument
a state of indecision or inaction
the extent to which a vessel, aircraft, projectile, etc is driven off its course by adverse winds, tide, or current
a general tendency of surface ocean water to flow in the direction of the prevailing windsNorth Atlantic Drift
a driving movement, force, or influence; impulse
a controlled four-wheel skid, used by racing drivers to take bends at high speed
a loose unstratified deposit of sand, gravel, etc, esp one transported and deposited by a glacier or ice sheet
a horizontal passage in a mine that follows the mineral vein
something, esp a group of animals, driven along by human or natural agenciesa drift of cattle
Also called: driftpin a tapering steel tool driven into holes to enlarge or align them before bolting or riveting
an uncontrolled slow change in some operating characteristic of a piece of equipment, esp an electronic circuit or component
linguistics gradual change in a language, esp in so far as this is influenced by the internal structure of the language rather than by contact with other languages
Southern African a ford
engineering a copper or brass bar used as a punch
Derived Formsdrifty, adjective

Word Origin for drift

C13: from Old Norse: snowdrift; related to Old High German trift pasturage

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 drift
Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

Medicine definitions for drift




A gradual deviation from an original course, model, method, or intention.
Movement of teeth from their normal position in the dental arch because of the loss of contiguous teeth.
genetic drift
A variation or random oscillation about a fixed setting, position, or mode of behavior.

The American Heritage® Stedman's Medical Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.

Idioms and Phrases with drift


see get the drift.

The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company.