See more synonyms for floe on Thesaurus.com
  1. Also called ice floe. a sheet of floating ice, chiefly on the surface of the sea, smaller than an ice field.
  2. a detached floating portion of such a sheet.

Origin of floe

1810–20; perhaps < Norwegian flo layer (compare Old Norse flō layer, level); cognate with Old English flōh piece, flagstone; cf. flaw1
Can be confusedfloe flow (see synonym study at flow)
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Examples from the Web for floe

Historical Examples of floe

  • "Be ready, now," said Kit; when some one of the party on the floe fired on a sudden.

    Left on Labrador

    Charles Asbury Stephens

  • About seven o'clock we heard a splashing out along the floe.

    Left on Labrador

    Charles Asbury Stephens

  • We towed the carcass up to the edge of the floe, and pulled it up.

    Left on Labrador

    Charles Asbury Stephens

  • She must have been caught in the floe before she could make her way into harbour for shelter.

    Archibald Hughson

    W.H.G. Kingston

  • To get through this floe, it was necessary to form a channel with the ice-saws.

    Notable Voyagers

    W.H.G. Kingston and Henry Frith

British Dictionary definitions for floe


  1. See ice floe

Word Origin for floe

C19: probably from Norwegian flo slab, layer, from Old Norse; see flaw 1
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 floe

1817, first used by Arctic explorers, probably from Norwegian flo "layer, slab," from Old Norse flo, related to first element in flagstone (q.v.). Earlier explorers used flake.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

floe in Science


  1. A mass or sheet of floating ice.
The American Heritage® Science Dictionary Copyright © 2011. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.