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. 2019

Examples from the Web for floes

Historical Examples of floes

  • The rending crash which accompanies the breaking of floes of ice.

    The Sailor's Word-Book

    William Henry Smyth

  • Freezing out on the floes; stewing under their roofs of snow.

    Fast in the Ice

    R.M. Ballantyne

  • We left our canoes and oomiaks there, and took to sledges because the floes were unbroken.

    The Giant of the North

    R.M. Ballantyne

  • Then I thought to myself, Why should we live always among the floes and bergs?

    The Walrus Hunters

    R.M. Ballantyne

  • We should have had to scramble on the floes and wait there till—till we died together.

    The Walrus Hunters

    R.M. Ballantyne

British Dictionary definitions for floes


  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 floes



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

floes 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.