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

Synonyms for drift

7. tenor.

Synonym study

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

Examples from the Web for drifting

Contemporary Examples of drifting

Historical Examples of drifting

British Dictionary definitions for drifting


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 drifting



c.1300, literally "a being driven" (of snow, etc.); not recorded in Old English; either a suffixed form of drive (v.) (cf. thrift/thrive) or borrowed from Old Norse drift "snow drift," or Middle Dutch drift "pasturage, drove, flock," both from Proto-Germanic *driftiz (cf. Danish and Swedish drift, German Trift), from PIE root *dhreibh- "to drive, push" (see drive (v.)). Sense of "what one is getting at" is from 1520s. Meaning "controlled slide of a sports car" attested by 1955.



late 16c., from drift (n.). Figurative sense of "be passive and listless" is from 1822. Related: Drifted; drifting.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

drifting in Medicine




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 drifting


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.