adjective, fleet·er, fleet·est.

swift; rapid: to be fleet of foot; a fleet horse.

verb (used without object)

verb (used with object)

to cause (time) to pass lightly or swiftly.
  1. to move or change the position of.
  2. to separate the blocks of (a tackle).
  3. to lay (a rope) along a deck.

Origin of fleet

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

Synonyms for fleet

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

Examples from the Web for fleetness

Historical Examples of fleetness

  • Off he flies, with the fleetness of fear, and in a few moments is seen no more.

    Mary S. Peake

    Lewis C. Lockwood

  • The fleetness of his beast enabled him to distance all pursuit, and he escaped.

    The Science of Fairy Tales

    Edwin Sidney Hartland

  • On many an occasion he owed his life to the fleetness of his mare.

    Stories Of Georgia

    Joel Chandler Harris

  • It was owing only to the fleetness of his horse that Tarleton escaped.

    Stories Of Georgia

    Joel Chandler Harris

  • If I possess any physical accomplishment in which I have confidence it is my fleetness of foot.

    The Quadroon

    Mayne Reid

British Dictionary definitions for fleetness




a number of warships organized as a tactical unit
all the warships of a nation
a number of aircraft, ships, buses, etc, operating together or under the same ownership

Word Origin for fleet

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




rapid in movement; swift
poetic fleeting; transient


(intr) to move rapidly
(intr) archaic to fade away smoothly; glide
(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)
(intr) obsolete to float or swim
(tr) obsolete to cause (time) to pass rapidly
Derived Formsfleetly, adverbfleetness, noun

Word Origin for fleet

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




mainly Southeast English a small coastal inlet; creek

Word Origin for fleet

Old English flēot flowing water; see fleet 1


noun the Fleet

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



"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.



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.



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.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper