Definitions

from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

  • intransitive v. To be carried along by currents of air or water: a balloon drifting eastward; as the wreckage drifted toward shore.
  • intransitive v. To proceed or move unhurriedly and smoothly: drifting among the party guests.
  • intransitive v. To move leisurely or sporadically from place to place, especially without purpose or regular employment: a day laborer, drifting from town to town.
  • intransitive v. To wander from a set course or point of attention; stray.
  • intransitive v. To vary from or oscillate randomly about a fixed setting, position, or mode of operation.
  • intransitive v. To be piled up in banks or heaps by the force of a current: snow drifting to five feet.
  • transitive v. To cause to be carried in a current: drifting the logs downstream.
  • transitive v. To pile up in banks or heaps: Wind drifted the loose straw against the barn.
  • transitive v. Western U.S. To drive (livestock) slowly or far afield, especially for grazing.
  • n. The act or condition of drifting.
  • n. Something moving along in a current of air or water.
  • n. A bank or pile, as of sand or snow, heaped up by currents of air or water.
  • n. Geology Rock debris transported and deposited by or from ice, especially by or from a glacier.
  • n. A general trend or tendency, as of opinion. See Synonyms at tendency.
  • n. General meaning or purport; tenor: caught the drift of the conversation.
  • n. A gradual change in position.
  • n. A gradual deviation from an original course, model, method, or intention.
  • n. Variation or random oscillation about a fixed setting, position, or mode of behavior.
  • n. A gradual change in the output of a circuit or amplifier.
  • n. The rate of flow of a water current.
  • n. A tool for ramming or driving something down.
  • n. A tapered steel pin for enlarging and aligning holes.
  • n. A horizontal or nearly horizontal passageway in a mine running through or parallel to a vein.
  • n. A secondary mine passageway between two main shafts or tunnels.
  • n. A drove or herd, especially of swine. See Synonyms at flock1.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • n. The act or motion of drifting; the force which impels or drives; an overpowering influence or impulse.
  • n. A place (a ford) along a river where the water is shallow enough to permit crossing to the opposite side.
  • n. Course or direction along which anything is driven; setting.
  • n. The tendency of an act, argument, course of conduct, or the like; object aimed at or intended; intention; hence, also, import or meaning of a sentence or discourse; aim.
  • n. That which is driven, forced, or urged along
  • n. Anything driven at random.
  • n. A mass of matter which has been driven or forced onward together in a body, or thrown together in a heap, etc., especially by wind or water; as, a drift of snow, of ice, of sand, and the like.
  • n. A drove or flock, as of cattle, sheep, birds.
  • n. The horizontal thrust or pressure of an arch or vault upon the abutments.
  • n. A collection of loose earth and rocks, or boulders, which have been distributed over large portions of the earth's surface, especially in latitudes north of forty degrees, by the retreat of continental glaciers, such as that which buries former river valleys and creates young river valleys.
  • n. A slightly tapered tool of steel for enlarging or shaping a hole in metal, by being forced or driven into or through it; a broach.
  • n. A tool used in driving down compactly the composition contained in a rocket, or like firework.
  • n. A deviation from the line of fire, peculiar to oblong projectiles.
  • n. A passage driven or cut between shaft and shaft; a driftway; a small subterranean gallery; an adit or tunnel.
  • n. The distance through which a current flows in a given time.
  • n. The angle which the line of a ship's motion makes with the meridian, in drifting.
  • n. The distance to which a vessel is carried off from her desired course by the wind, currents, or other causes.
  • n. The place in a deep-waisted vessel where the sheer is raised and the rail is cut off, and usually terminated with a scroll, or driftpiece.
  • n. The distance between the two blocks of a tackle.
  • n. The difference between the size of a bolt and the hole into which it is driven, or between the circumference of a hoop and that of the mast on which it is to be driven.
  • n. A sideways movement of the ball through the air, when bowled by a spin bowler.
  • n. Driftwood included in flotsam washed up onto the beach.
  • v. To move slowly, pushed by currents of water, air, etc.
  • v. To move haphazardly without any destination.
  • v. To deviate gently from the intended direction of travel.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • n. A driving; a violent movement.
  • n. The act or motion of drifting; the force which impels or drives; an overpowering influence or impulse.
  • n. Course or direction along which anything is driven; setting.
  • n. The tendency of an act, argument, course of conduct, or the like; object aimed at or intended; intention; hence, also, import or meaning of a sentence or discourse; aim.
  • n. That which is driven, forced, or urged along.
  • n. Anything driven at random.
  • n. A mass of matter which has been driven or forced onward together in a body, or thrown together in a heap, etc., esp. by wind or water.
  • n. A drove or flock, as of cattle, sheep, birds.
  • n. The horizontal thrust or pressure of an arch or vault upon the abutments.
  • n. A collection of loose earth and rocks, or boulders, which have been distributed over large portions of the earth's surface, especially in latitudes north of forty degrees, by the agency of ice.
  • n. In South Africa, a ford in a river.
  • n. A slightly tapered tool of steel for enlarging or shaping a hole in metal, by being forced or driven into or through it; a broach.
  • n.
  • n. A tool used in driving down compactly the composition contained in a rocket, or like firework.
  • n. A deviation from the line of fire, peculiar to oblong projectiles.
  • n. A passage driven or cut between shaft and shaft; a driftway; a small subterranean gallery; an adit or tunnel.
  • n.
  • n. The distance through which a current flows in a given time.
  • n. The angle which the line of a ship's motion makes with the meridian, in drifting.
  • n. The distance to which a vessel is carried off from her desired course by the wind, currents, or other causes.
  • n. The place in a deep-waisted vessel where the sheer is raised and the rail is cut off, and usually terminated with a scroll, or driftpiece.
  • n. The distance between the two blocks of a tackle.
  • n. The difference between the size of a bolt and the hole into which it is driven, or between the circumference of a hoop and that of the mast on which it is to be driven.
  • n. One of the slower movements of oceanic circulation; a general tendency of the water, subject to occasional or frequent diversion or reversal by the wind.
  • n. The horizontal component of the pressure of the air on the sustaining surfaces of a flying machine. The lift is the corresponding vertical component, which sustains the machine in the air.
  • intransitive v. To float or be driven along by, or as by, a current of water or air
  • intransitive v. To accumulate in heaps by the force of wind; to be driven into heaps.
  • intransitive v. to make a drift; to examine a vein or ledge for the purpose of ascertaining the presence of metals or ores; to follow a vein; to prospect.
  • transitive v. To drive or carry, as currents do a floating body.
  • transitive v. To drive into heaps.
  • transitive v. To enlarge or shape, as a hole, with a drift.
  • adj. That causes drifting or that is drifted; movable by wind or currents

from The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia

  • n. A driving; a force impelling or urging forward; impulse; hence, figuratively, overbearing power or influence.
  • n. Anything driven; especially, an assemblage or a number of things or animals driven, or impelled by any kind of force: as, a drift of trees in a torrent; a drift of cattle (a drove); a drift of bullets.
  • n. Hence A heap of any matter driven together: as, a drift of snow, or a snow-drift; a drift of sand.
  • n. Course of anything; tendency; aim; intention: as, the drift of reasoning or argument;the drift of a discourse.
  • n. In geology, loose detrital material, fragments of rock, boulders, sand, gravel, or clay, or a mixture of two or more of these deposits, resting on the surface of the bed-rock.
  • n. In mining, a nearly horizontal excavation made in opening or working a mine: nearly the synonym of level.
  • n. Nautical, the leeway which a vessel makes when lying to or hove to during a gale. Also driftway.
  • n. In ship-building, the difference between the size of a bolt and the hole into which it is to be driven, or between the circumference of a hoop and the circumference of the mast on which it is to be driven.
  • n. The horizontal oversetting force or pressure outward exerted by an arch on the piers on which it rests.
  • n. Slow movement of a galvanometer-needle, generally due to changes in the torsional elasticity of the suspending fiber.
  • n. In mech., a longish round and slightly tapering piece of steel used for enlarging a hole in a metallic plate; a drift-bolt; a punch. It sometimes has grooves cut in spirals on the sides, to give it cutting edges. Also called driver.
  • n. Milit.: A tool used in ramming down the composition contained in a rocket or similar firework
  • n. A priming-iron to clean the vent of a piece of ordnance from burning particles after each discharge.
  • n. In gunnery, same as derivation, 6.
  • n. A green lane.
  • n. Delay; procrastination.
  • n. In South Africa, a ford.
  • n. The distance traversed in making a single haul of a dredge.
  • To float or be driven along by a current of water or air; be carried at random by the force of the wind or tide; hence, figuratively, to be carried as if by accident or involuntarily into a course of action or state of circumstances.
  • To accumulate in heaps by the force of wind; be driven into heaps.
  • In mining, to run a drift. See drift, n., 6.
  • To drive into heaps: as, a current of wind drifts snow or sand.
  • To cover with drifts or driftage.
  • To excavate horizontally or in a horizontal direction; drive. Shafts are sunk; levels or drifts are driven or drifted.
  • To delay; put off.
  • n. The flow of a current.
  • n. The amount by which a ship is drifted by the action of a current, wind, or sea.
  • n. The place in the sheer where the rails are cut off.
  • n. A conical steel pin used by riveters or fitters to drift or force two holes not quite in line with each other, so that the openings will coincide and let the rivet or bolt pass through.
  • n. A set of fishing-nets.
  • n. A drift-net.
  • n. The catch of fish taken in a drift-net.
  • n. In turpentining, a subdivision of the crop, usually 2,100 boxes or cups.
  • n. In oceanography, a broad and shallow current which advances at, a rate of ten or fifteen miles a day, like that which crosses the middle North Atlantic.
  • n. In aëronautics, the tendency of an object supported in the air (as a kite or a bird) to move in the direction of the air; opposed to lift or the ascensional force.
  • To drive specifically, to drive by striking a set, pin, or block aced against the object to be driven.
  • To enlarge or shape a hole by the use of a drift-pin.

from WordNet 3.0 Copyright 2006 by Princeton University. All rights reserved.

  • n. a large mass of material that is heaped up by the wind or by water currents
  • v. be piled up in banks or heaps by the force of wind or a current
  • n. a process of linguistic change over a period of time
  • v. live unhurriedly, irresponsibly, or freely
  • v. wander from a direct course or at random
  • n. a general tendency to change (as of opinion)
  • v. vary or move from a fixed point or course
  • n. the gradual departure from an intended course due to external influences (as a ship or plane)
  • v. be subject to fluctuation
  • n. a force that moves something along
  • v. be in motion due to some air or water current
  • v. move in an unhurried fashion
  • v. move about aimlessly or without any destination, often in search of food or employment
  • n. a horizontal (or nearly horizontal) passageway in a mine
  • n. the pervading meaning or tenor
  • v. cause to be carried by a current
  • v. drive slowly and far afield for grazing

Etymologies

From Middle English, drove, herd, act of driving; see dhreibh- in Indo-European roots.
(American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition)
From Middle English drift, dryft ("act of driving, drove, shower of rain or snow, impulse"), from Old English *drift (“drift”), from Proto-Germanic *driftiz (“drift”), from Proto-Indo-European *dhreibh- (“to drive, push”). Cognate with North Frisian drift ("drift"), Dutch drift ("drift, passion, urge"), German Drift ("drift") and Trift ("drove, pasture"), Swedish drift ("impulse, instinct"), Icelandic drift ("drift, snow-drift"). Related to drive. (Wiktionary)

Examples

  • A big part of the policy story is what we call "drift" - the deliberate failure to update policies to reflect changing economic realities despite viable and popular alternatives due to the pressure of those benefiting from such calculated inaction.

    NYT > Home Page

  • The old and discredited neo-conservatives like Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz, Bolton and Jeb Bush sought to link domestic controversies surrounding the Clinton administration to what they described as a drift in American foreign and defense policy.

    The Stakes in the 2008 Election

  • I have dived myself there in the Netherland Antilles, and we did what you call drift diving, where it carries you along, the water does, because there ` s a very heavy current.

    CNN Transcript Jun 20, 2005

  • They profess to see the approaching extinction of the American democracy in what they call the drift towards centralization.

    The Promise of American Life

  • We're happy to say when we did that we showed through what they call drift ftr very sophisticated ftr analysis and quantitative X-ray diffraction that we truly had hit the home run because all of the activating chemicals down to parts per trillion.

    Latest Articles

  • (Scoresby’s use of the term drift – ice for pieces of ice intermediate in size between floes and brash has, however, quite died out).

    South: the story of Shackleton’s last expedition 1914–1917

  • As those of us who have shot some at long range know, (lack of) wind drift is much more important than an inch or two of flatter trajectory ... not that trajectory is an issue at 3000+ fps.

    What We Can Learn From Lefty

  • How he happened to drift from the western cattle-ranges to New York he did not explain, any more than did he explain how he came to ship on the

    CHAPTER XIV

  • “Our drift is to the south-east, or south-south-east, at the rate of at least two miles an hour.”

    Chapter 27

  • Others argue that random genetic drift is actually responsible for a much greater proportion of evolutionary change than adaptation.

    About 'What Darwin Got Wrong'

Comments

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  • Contronymic in the sense: piled up in place (as snow) vs. in motion, rootless.

    January 27, 2007