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  1. the largest organized unit of naval ships grouped for tactical or other purposes.
  2. the largest organization of warships under the command of a single officer.
  3. a number of naval vessels or vessels carrying armed crew members.
  4. a large group of ships, airplanes, trucks, etc., operated by a single company or under the same ownership: He owns a fleet of cabs.
  5. a large group of airplanes, automobiles, etc., moving or operating together.
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Origin of fleet1

before 1000; Middle English flete, Old English flēot, derivative of flēotan to float; see fleet2


adjective, fleet·er, fleet·est.
  1. swift; rapid: to be fleet of foot; a fleet horse.
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verb (used without object)
  1. to move swiftly; fly.
  2. Nautical. to change position; shift.
  3. Archaic.
    1. to glide along like a stream.
    2. to fade; vanish.
  4. Obsolete. to float; drift; swim.
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verb (used with object)
  1. to cause (time) to pass lightly or swiftly.
  2. Nautical.
    1. to move or change the position of.
    2. to separate the blocks of (a tackle).
    3. to lay (a rope) along a deck.
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Origin of fleet2

before 900; Middle English fleten to be fleet, Old English flēotan to float; see float
Related formsfleet·ly, adverbfleet·ness, noun


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noun British Dialect.
  1. an arm of the sea; inlet.
  2. a creek; stream; watercourse.
  3. the Fleet, a former prison in London, long used for debtors.
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Origin of fleet3

before 900; Middle English flete, Old English flēot flowing water; cognate with German Fliess brook; (def 3) after the Fleet a stream, later covered and used as a sewer, near which the prison was located
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Related Words

speedy, armada, navy, squadron, flotilla, rapid, brisk, flying, fast, swift, barreling, winged, screaming, formation, line, argosy, vessels, tonnage, agile, breakneck

Examples from the Web for fleet

Contemporary Examples

Historical Examples

  • They were distributed among the captains of the fleet for transportation to Athens.

  • That's what you'd become if you were to stay in Fleet Street.

    The Foolish Lovers

    St. John G. Ervine

  • There we knew we should find the army, and might get tidings of the fleet.

    Ned Myers

    James Fenimore Cooper

  • One thousand of the best men in the fleet were sent to assist in the siege.

  • With these steeds, so well fitted for hunting, were twelve sleek, fleet hounds.

    Welsh Fairy Tales

    William Elliott Griffis

British Dictionary definitions for fleet


  1. a number of warships organized as a tactical unit
  2. all the warships of a nation
  3. a number of aircraft, ships, buses, etc, operating together or under the same ownership
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Word Origin

Old English flēot ship, flowing water, from flēotan to float


  1. rapid in movement; swift
  2. poetic fleeting; transient
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  1. (intr) to move rapidly
  2. (intr) archaic to fade away smoothly; glide
  3. (tr) nautical
    1. to change the position of (a hawser)
    2. to pass (a messenger or lead) to a hawser from a winch for hauling in
    3. to spread apart (the blocks of a tackle)
  4. (intr) obsolete to float or swim
  5. (tr) obsolete to cause (time) to pass rapidly
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Derived Formsfleetly, adverbfleetness, noun

Word Origin

probably Old English flēotan to float, glide rapidly; related to Old High German fliozzan to flow, Latin pluere to rain


  1. mainly Southeast English a small coastal inlet; creek
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Word Origin

Old English flēot flowing water; see fleet 1


noun the Fleet
  1. a stream that formerly ran into the Thames between Ludgate Hill and Fleet Street and is now a covered sewer
  2. Also called: Fleet Prison (formerly) a London prison, esp used for holding debtors
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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 fleet


Old English fleot "ship, raft, floating vessel," from fleotan "to float" (see fleet (v.)). Sense of "naval force" is pre-1200. The Old English word also meant "creek, inlet, flow of water," especially one into the Thames near Ludgate Hill, which lent its name to Fleet Street (home of newspaper and magazine houses, standing for "the English press" since 1882), Fleet prison, etc.

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"swift," 1520s, but probably older than the record; apparently from or cognate with Old Norse fliotr "swift," and from the root of fleet (v.)). Related: Fleetness.

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Old English fleotan "to float, drift, flow, swim, sail," later (c.1200) "to flow," from Proto-Germanic *fleut- (cf. Old Frisian fliata, Old Saxon fliotan "to flow," Old High German fliozzan "to float, flow," German flieszen "to flow," Old Norse fliota "to float, flow"), from PIE root *pleu- "to flow, run, swim" (see pluvial).

Meaning "to glide away like a stream, vanish imperceptibly" is from c.1200; hence "to fade, to vanish" (1570s). Related: Fleeted; fleeting.

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Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper