verb (used without object)

verb (used with object)


Origin of float

before 1000; Middle English floten, Old English flotian; cognate with Old Norse flota, Middle Dutch vloten; akin to Old English flēotan to fleet2
Related formsout·float, verb (used with object)re·float, verb

Synonyms for float

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

Related Words for float

swim, hover, glide, hang, ride, sail, drift, waft, wash, slide, bob, skim, poise

Examples from the Web for float

Contemporary Examples of float

Historical Examples of float

  • As for boat, or spars, the former would not float, and of the last there was not one.

    Ned Myers

    James Fenimore Cooper

  • The tide was rising now, and presently the Ithaca began to float.

    The Monster Men

    Edgar Rice Burroughs

  • Jeremiah, the captain deserts the ship, but you and I will sink or float with it.'

    Little Dorrit

    Charles Dickens

  • He had built his ship with very slight reference to the lake on which she was to float.

  • I am afraid I am not the right person to float a mine on the London market.

British Dictionary definitions for float



to rest or cause to rest on the surface of a fluid or in a fluid or space without sinking; be buoyant or cause to exhibit buoyancyoil floats on water; to float a ship
to move or cause to move buoyantly, lightly, or freely across a surface or through air, water, etc; driftfog floated across the road
to move about aimlessly, esp in the mindthoughts floated before him
to suspend or be suspended without falling; hanglights floated above them
  1. to launch or establish (a commercial enterprise, etc)
  2. to offer for sale (stock or bond issues, etc) on the stock market
(tr) finance to allow (a currency) to fluctuate against other currencies in accordance with market forces
(tr) to flood, inundate, or irrigate (land), either artificially or naturally
(tr) to spread, smooth, or level (a surface of plaster, rendering, etc)


something that floats
angling an indicator attached to a baited line that sits on the water and moves when a fish bites
a small hand tool with a rectangular blade used for floating plaster, etc
mainly US any buoyant object, such as a platform or inflated tube, used offshore by swimmers or, when moored alongside a pier, as a dock by vessels
Also called: paddle a blade of a paddle wheel
British a buoyant garment or device to aid a person in staying afloat
a hollow watertight structure fitted to the underside of an aircraft to allow it to land on water
another name for air bladder (def. 2)
an exhibit carried in a parade, esp a religious parade
a motor vehicle used to carry a tableau or exhibit in a parade, esp a civic parade
a small delivery vehicle, esp one powered by batteriesa milk float
Australian and NZ a vehicle for transporting horses
banking, mainly US the total value of uncollected cheques and other commercial papers
mainly US and Canadian a sum to be applied to minor expenses; petty cash
a sum of money used by shopkeepers to provide change at the start of the day's business, this sum being subtracted from the total at the end of the day when calculating the day's takings
the hollow floating ball of a ballcock
engineering a hollow cylindrical structure in a carburettor that actuates the fuel valve
mainly US and Canadian a carbonated soft drink with a scoop of ice cream in it
(in textiles) a single thread brought to or above the surface of a woven fabric, esp to form a pattern
forestry a measure of timber equal to eighteen loads
See also float off, floats
Derived Formsfloatable, adjectivefloatability, noun

Word Origin for float

Old English flotian; related to Old Norse flota , Old Saxon flotōn; see fleet ²
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 float

late Old English flotian "to float" (class II strong verb; past tense fleat, past participle floten), from Proto-Germanic *flutojanan (cf. Old Norse flota, Middle Dutch vloten), from PIE root *pleu- "to flow" (see pluvial). Of motion through air, from 1630s. Related: Floated; floating.


early 12c., "state of floating" (Old English flot meant "body of water"), from float (v.). Meaning "platform on wheels used for displays in parades, etc." is from 1888, probably from earlier sense of "flat-bottomed boat" (1550s). As a type of fountain drink, by 1915.

Float.--An ade upon the top of which is floated a layer of grape juice, ginger ale, or in some cases a disher of fruit sherbet or ice cream. In the latter case it would be known as a "sherbet float" or an "ice-cream float." ["The Dispenser's Formulary: Or, Soda Water Guide," New York, 1915]

Few soda water dispensers know what is meant by a "Float Ice Cream Soda." This is not strange since the term is a coined one. By a "float ice cream soda" is meant a soda with the ice cream floating on top, thus making a most inviting appearance and impressing the customer that you are liberal with your ice cream, when you are not really giving any more than the fellow that mixes his ice cream "out of sight." ["The Spatula," Boston, July, 1908]
Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

float in Science



An air-filled sac in certain aquatic organisms, such as kelp, that helps maintain buoyancy. Also called air bladder air vesicle
The American Heritage® Science Dictionary Copyright © 2011. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.