being buoyed up on water or other liquid.
having little or no attachment to a particular place; moving from one place to another: a floating work force.
Pathology. away from its proper position, especially in a downward direction: a floating kidney.
not fixed or settled in a definite place or state: a floating population.
  1. in circulation or use, or not permanently invested, as capital.
  2. composed of sums due within a short time: a floating debt.
  1. having a soft suspension greatly reducing vibrations between the suspended part and its support.
  2. working smoothly.

Nearby words

  1. flitter,
  2. flittermouse,
  3. flitty,
  4. flivver,
  5. flo,
  6. float bowl,
  7. float bridge,
  8. float chamber,
  9. float glass,
  10. float off

Origin of floating

First recorded in 1555–65; float + -ing2

Related formsfloat·ing·ly, adverbnon·float·ing, adjectivenon·float·ing·ly, adverbun·float·ing, adjective



verb (used without object)

to rest or remain on the surface of a liquid; be buoyant: The hollow ball floated.
to move gently on the surface of a liquid; drift along: The canoe floated downstream.
to rest or move in a liquid, the air, etc.: a balloon floating on high.
to move lightly and gracefully: She floated down the stairs.
to move or hover before the eyes or in the mind: Romantic visions floated before his eyes.
to pass from one person to another: A nasty rumor about his firm is floating around town.
to be free from attachment or involvement.
to move or drift about: to float from place to place.
to vacillate (often followed by between).
to be launched, as a company, scheme, etc.
(of a currency) to be allowed to fluctuate freely in the foreign-exchange market instead of being exchanged at a fixed rate.
(of an interest rate) to change periodically according to money-market conditions.
Commerce. to be in circulation, as an acceptance; be awaiting maturity.

verb (used with object)

to cause to float.
to cover with water or other liquid; flood; irrigate.
to launch (a company, scheme, etc.); set going.
to issue on the stock market in order to raise money, as stocks or bonds.
to let (a currency or interest rate) fluctuate in the foreign-exchange or money market.
to make smooth with a float, as the surface of plaster.
Theater. to lay down (a flat), usually by bracing the bottom edge of the frame with the foot and allowing the rest to fall slowly to the floor.


something that floats, as a raft.
something for buoying up.
an inflated bag to sustain a person in water; life preserver.
(in certain types of tanks, cisterns, etc.) a device, as a hollow ball, that through its buoyancy automatically regulates the level, supply, or outlet of a liquid.
Nautical. a floating platform attached to a wharf, bank, or the like, and used as a landing.
Aeronautics. a hollow, boatlike structure under the wing or fuselage of a seaplane or flying boat, keeping it afloat in water.
Angling. a piece of cork or other material for supporting a baited line in the water and indicating by its movements when a fish bites.
Zoology. an inflated organ that supports an animal in the water.
a vehicle bearing a display, usually an elaborate tableau, in a parade or procession: Each class prepared a float for the football pageant.
a glass of fruit juice or soft drink with one or more scoops of ice cream floating in it: a root-beer float.
(especially in the northeastern U.S.) a milk shake with one or more scoops of ice cream floating in it.
Banking. uncollected checks and commercial paper in process of transfer from bank to bank.
the total amount of any cost-of-living or other variable adjustments added to an employee's pay or a retiree's benefits: a float of $6 per month on top of Social Security benefits.
an act or instance of floating, as a currency on the foreign-exchange market.
Building Trades.
  1. a flat tool for spreading and smoothing plaster or stucco.
  2. a tool for polishing marble.
a single-cut file of moderate smoothness.
a loose-fitting, sometimes very full dress without a waistline.
(in weaving and knitting) a length of yarn that extends over several rows or stitches without being interworked.
British. a sum of money used by a storekeeper to provide change for the till at the start of a day's business.
British. a small vehicle, usually battery powered, used to make deliveries, as of milk.
a low-bodied dray for transporting heavy goods.
Geology, Mining.
  1. loose fragments of rock, ore, etc., that have been moved from one place to another by the action of wind, water, etc.
  2. ore that has been washed downhill from an orebody and is found lying on the surface of the ground.
  3. any mineral in suspension in water.
Usually floats. British Theater. footlight(def 1).

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

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

Examples from the Web for floating

British Dictionary definitions for floating



having little or no attachment
(of an organ or part) displaced from the normal position or abnormally movablea floating kidney
not definitely attached to one place or policy; uncommitted or unfixedthe floating vote
  1. (of capital) not allocated or invested; available for current use
  2. (of debt) short-term and unfunded, usually raised by a government or company to meet current expenses
  3. (of a currency) free to fluctuate against other currencies in accordance with market forces
machinery operating smoothly through being free from external constraints
(of an electronic circuit or device) not connected to a source of voltage
Derived Formsfloatingly, adverb



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 floating
Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

Medicine definitions for floating




Completely or partially unattached.
Out of the normal position; unduly movable. Used of certain organs such as the kidney.

The American Heritage® Stedman's Medical Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.

Science definitions for floating



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.