from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 5th Edition.

  • intransitive verb To remain suspended within or on the surface of a fluid without sinking.
  • intransitive verb To be suspended in or move through space as if supported by a liquid.
  • intransitive verb To move from place to place, especially at random.
  • intransitive verb To move easily or lightly.
  • intransitive verb Economics To rise or fall freely in response to the market.
  • intransitive verb To cause to remain suspended without sinking or falling.
  • intransitive verb To put into the water; launch.
  • intransitive verb To start or establish (a business enterprise, for example).
  • intransitive verb To flood (land), as for irrigation.
  • intransitive verb Economics To allow (the exchange value of a currency, for example) to rise or fall freely in response to the market.
  • intransitive verb To offer for consideration; suggest.
  • intransitive verb To release (a security) for sale.
  • intransitive verb To arrange for (a loan).
  • intransitive verb To make the surface of (plaster, for example) level or smooth.
  • intransitive verb Computers To convert (data) from fixed-point notation to floating-point notation.
  • noun Something that floats, as.
  • noun A raft.
  • noun A buoy.
  • noun A life preserver.
  • noun A buoyant object, such as a piece of cork or a plastic ball, used to hold a net or part of a fishing line afloat.
  • noun A landing platform attached to a wharf and floating on the water.
  • noun A floating ball attached to a lever to regulate the water level in a tank.
  • noun Biology An air-filled sac or structure that aids in the flotation of an aquatic organism.
  • noun A decorated exhibit or scene mounted on a mobile platform and pulled or driven in a parade.
  • noun The number of shares of a security that are publicly owned and traded.
  • noun A sum of money representing checks that are outstanding.
  • noun The time between the issuing or depositing of a check and the debiting of the issuer's account.
  • noun The time during which a credit card purchase can be repaid without interest.
  • noun A tool for smoothing the surface of wet plaster or cement.
  • noun A file with sharp ridges used for cutting or smoothing wood.
  • noun A soft drink with ice cream floating in it.
  • noun Excess time allowed for a task in a project schedule.

from The Century Dictionary.

  • To rest on the surface of water or other liquid, with or without movement; more commonly, to be buoyed up by water and moved by its motion alone.
  • To rest or move in or as if in a liquid medium; be or appear to be buoyed up, moved, or carried along by or with the aid of a surrounding element: as, clouds, motes, feathers, etc., float in the air; odors float on the breeze; strains of music float on the wind.
  • To drift about fortuitously; be moved or carried along aimlessly or vaguely; go and come passively: as, a rumor has floated hither; confused notions floating in the mind.
  • In weaving, to pass, as a thread, crosswise under or over several threads without intersecting them.
  • To cause to float; buoy; cause to be conveyed on the surface of a liquid: as, the tide floated the ship into the harbor; to float timber down a river.
  • To cover with water; flood; irrigate.
  • In oyster-culture, to place on a float for fattening. See float, n., 1 .
  • In plastering, to pass over and level the surface of, as plaster, with a float frequently dipped in water.
  • In ceramics, to wash over or cover with a thin coat, as of varnish, or with enamel.
  • In white-lead making, to subject to the process of floating. See floating, n., 4.
  • In farriery, to file, as the teeth of horses, especially old horses.
  • To set afloat; give course or effect to; procure recognition or support for: used of financial operations: as, to float stocks or bonds; to float a scheme by raising funds to carry it on.
  • In sporting, to hunt by approaching with a boat or float at night: as, to float deer.
  • noun A timber drag used for dressing off roads, especially race-courses.


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

[Middle English floten, from Old English flotian; see pleu- in Indo-European roots.]

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

From Middle English floten, from Old English flotian ("to float"), from Proto-Germanic *flutōnan (“to float”), from Proto-Indo-European *plewd-, *plew- (“to float, swim, fly”). Cognate with Middle Low German vloten, vlotten ("to float, swim"), Middle Dutch vloten, Old Norse flota, Icelandic fljóta, Old English flēotan ("to float, swim"), Ancient Greek πλέω, Lithuanian plaukti, Russian плавать.


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  • Suspend here and everywhere, eternal float of solution! Whitman, "Crossing Brooklyn Ferry"

    December 11, 2006

  • Whatever floats your boat!

    October 14, 2007

  • 8. to smooth (as plaster or cement) with a float

    For horses, see here

    October 27, 2007

  • "Cummings was looking at an aerial photograph of an area in east Baghdad called Kamaliya, where there was an abandoned spaghetti factory with a hole in the courtyard, a hole in which some of his soldiers had discovered Bob.

    Bob: It's shorthand for 'bobbin' in the float,' Cummings explained.

    Float: It's shorthand for 'two to three feet of raw sewage,' he further explained."

    - David Finkel, Psychopathy in Action: A Grisly Problem, "Grateful" Dead Iraqis and a Grim Outlook, Washington Post, 25 April 2007.

    September 11, 2009