the male of the honeybee and other bees, stingless and making no honey.
  1. an unmanned aircraft or ship that can navigate autonomously, without human control or beyond line of sight: the GPS of a U.S. spy drone.
  2. (loosely) any unmanned aircraft or ship that is guided remotely: a radio-controlled drone.
a person who lives on the labor of others; parasitic loafer.
a drudge.

Origin of drone

before 1000; 1945–50 for def 2a; Middle English drone, drane, Old English dran, dron; akin to Old High German treno, German Drohne
Related formsdron·ish, adjective



verb (used without object), droned, dron·ing.

to make a dull, continued, low, monotonous sound; hum; buzz.
to speak in a monotonous tone.
to proceed in a dull, monotonous manner (usually followed by on): The meeting droned on for hours.

verb (used with object), droned, dron·ing.

to say in a dull, monotonous tone.


  1. a continuous low tone produced by the bass pipes or bass strings of musical instruments.
  2. the pipes (especially of the bagpipe) or strings producing this tone.
  3. a bagpipe equipped with such pipes.
a monotonous low tone; humming or buzzing sound.
a person who speaks in a monotonous tone.

Origin of drone

1490–1500; see drone1 and compare Middle English droun to roar, Icelandic drynja to bellow, Gothic drunjus noise
Related formsdron·er, noundron·ing·ly, adverb
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for drone

Contemporary Examples of drone

Historical Examples of drone

  • All up the Valley the drums' rattle drowned the drone of the locusts in the stubble.

    In the Valley

    Harold Frederic

  • The sky above the Vulcan was filled with the drone of hurtling shells.

  • From far away came a drone that was separate from the throbbing of his head.

    Raiders Invisible

    Desmond Winter Hall

  • It was vague and indistinct and the drone plane was shooting the scene from too far away.


    Frank M. Robinson

  • To be proud that one wasn't a loafer or a drone, or a parasite on the body economic.

    Mixed Faces

    Roy Norton

British Dictionary definitions for drone




a male bee in a colony of social bees, whose sole function is to mate with the queen
British a person who lives off the work of others
a pilotless radio-controlled aircraft
Derived Formsdronish, adjective

Word Origin for drone

Old English drān; related to Old High German treno drone, Gothic drunjus noise, Greek tenthrēnē wasp; see drone ²




(intr) to make a monotonous low dull sound; buzz or hum
(when intr, often foll by on) to utter (words) in a monotonous tone, esp to talk without stopping


a monotonous low dull sound
  1. a sustained bass note or chord of unvarying pitch accompanying a melody
  2. (as modifier)a drone bass
music one of the single-reed pipes in a set of bagpipes, used for accompanying the melody played on the chanter
a person who speaks in a low monotonous tone
Derived Formsdroning, adjectivedroningly, adverb

Word Origin for drone

C16: related to drone 1 and Middle Dutch drōnen, German dröhnen
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 drone

Old English dran, dræn "male honeybee," from Proto-Germanic *dran- (cf. Middle Dutch drane; Old High German treno; German Drohne, which is from Middle Low German drone), probably imitative; given a figurative sense of "idler, lazy worker" (male bees make no honey) 1520s. Meaning "pilotless aircraft" is from 1946.

Drones, as the radio-controlled craft are called, have many potentialities, civilian and military. Some day huge mother ships may guide fleets of long-distance, cargo-carrying airplanes across continents and oceans. Long-range drones armed with atomic bombs could be flown by accompanying mother ships to their targets and in for perfect hits. ["Popular Science," November, 1946]

Meaning "deep, continuous humming sound" is early 16c., apparently imitative (cf. threnody). The verb in the sound sense is early 16c.; it often is the characteristic sound of airplane engines. Related: Droned; droning.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

Science definitions for drone



A male bee, especially a honeybee whose only function is to fertilize the queen. Drones have no stingers, do no work, and do not produce honey.
The American Heritage® Science Dictionary Copyright © 2011. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.

Culture definitions for drone


In military usage, a pilotless aircraft used for reconnaissance and, more recently, for launching aerial attacks.

The New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, Third Edition Copyright © 2005 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.