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a- +‎ float



afloat (not comparable)

  1. Floating.
    A rubber duck and other toys were afloat in the bath.
  2. In a vessel at sea or on another body of water.
    Antonym: ashore
    • 1788, Alexander Jardine, Letters from Barbary, France, Spain, Portugal, &c.[3], London: T. Cadell, Volume 2, Letter 23, p. 236:
      [] that trade [] may likewise employ many useful hands both ashore and afloat,
    • 1881–1882, Robert Louis Stevenson, chapter 11, in Treasure Island, London, Paris: Cassell & Company, published 14 November 1883, →OCLC, part II (The Sea Cook), page 88:
      They was the roughest crew afloat, was Flint’s; the devil himself would have been feared to go to sea with them.
    • 1947, James Michener, “The Strike”, in Tales of the South Pacific[4], New York: Dial, published 2014, page 315:
      Navy chow ashore is rarely as good as it is afloat, and for enlisted men it is usually much worse.
  3. Floating in the air; flowing freely; not tied, braided, etc. (of hair or clothing)
  4. Covered with water (bearing floating objects).
    Synonyms: awash, flooded
    The decks are afloat.
    • 1695, Edmund Gibson (translator), Camden’s Britannia, London: A. Swalle, “Staffordshire,”[6]
      [] it [the River Dove] overflows and lays the meadows afloat in April, like another Nile
    • 1938, Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings, chapter 19, in The Yearling[7], New York: Scribner, page 233:
      The yard was afloat. Jody looked out of the window and saw two drowned biddies floating about with upturned bellies.
  5. (figurative) Covered, overspread (with or in something).
    Synonym: awash
    • 1911, D. H. Lawrence, The White Peacock[8], London: Heinemann, Part 2, Chapter 2, p. 233:
      The larch-wood was afloat with clear, lyric green,
    • 1935, Lucy Maud Montgomery, Mistress Pat[9], Sydney: Angus & Robertson, published 1937, page 100:
      The world was afloat in primrose light, pale and exquisite.
    • 1979, Bernard Malamud, Dubin’s Lives[10], New York: Farrar Straus Giroux, Part 1, p. 51:
      The lobby was afloat with men, single and married, meeting pretty women in bright dresses and pants suits, single and married.
  6. Having enough money to continue to operate; (of a private individual, family, etc.) able to pay one's expenses, able to keep one's head above water. (of an organization)
    Synonyms: on one's feet, solvent
    Antonyms: bankrupt, insolvent
    The donation will keep our business afloat for quite a while.
    • 1549, Miles Coverdale, transl., The Paraphrase of Erasmus upon the New Testament[11], London: Edward Whitchurche, Volume 2, Philippians 4:
      [] you nede not to be sorye, as thoughe your frendely liberalitie had not be very acceptable vnto me. I haue receaued euery thing, and now I am afloate, by your lyberall sendyng.
    • 1753, Tobias Smollett, chapter 54, in The Adventures of Ferdinand, Count Fathom[12], Edinburgh: Mundell & Son, published 1800, pages 306–307:
      He [] endeavoured, by forcing himself into a lower path of life than any he had hitherto trod, to keep himself afloat, with the portion of some tradesman’s daughter, whom he meant to espouse.
    • 1847 January – 1848 July, William Makepeace Thackeray, chapter 34, in Vanity Fair [], London: Bradbury and Evans [], published 1848, →OCLC, page 309:
      [] the price poor Jos Osborne had paid for her two horses was in itself sufficient to keep their little establishment afloat for a year, at least;
    • 1887, Harriet W. Daly, Digging, Squatting, and Pioneering Life in the Northern Territory of South Australia, page 191:
      They somehow manage to keep "afloat," so as to obtain the needful funds to pay their passages and to purchase, tools and rations.
    • 2010, Nadifa Mohamed, Black Mamba Boy[13], New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, page 67:
      The clan handouts that kept other Somalis afloat were absent here, as the Yibros were so few and so poor.
  7. (dated, of ideas, information, etc.) Being believed or discussed by many people; being passed from person to person.
    Synonyms: circulating, in circulation, current
    • 1587, Raphael Holinshed et al., Holinshed’s Chronicles[14], volume 3, Edward I, page 298:
      setting a lie aflote
    • 1757, William Burke, Edmund Burke, An Account of the European Settlements in America[15], London: R. and J. Dodsley, Volume 2, Part 7, Chapter 4, p. 150:
      [] as this example set the discourse about witchcraft afloat, some people, troubled with a similar complaint, began to fancy themselves bewitched too.
    • 1878, Thomas Hardy, chapter 5, in The Return of the Native[16], volume 2, London: Smith, Elder, page 163:
      [] I shall not be judged fairly; it will get afloat that I am not a good girl,
    • 1945, Evelyn Waugh, Brideshead Revisited[17], London: Chapman & Hall, Book 2, Chapter 3, p. 243:
      [] she and I were accepted, whatever ugly rumours had been afloat in the past year, as man and wife.
  8. (obsolete, of an emotional state) Stimulated, aroused.
    • 1769, Elizabeth Griffith, The School for Rakes[18], London: T. Becket and P.A. De Hondt, Epilogue, page 92:
      You’ll find, when once my passion is afloat, / The soul of Caesar, in a petticoat!
    • 1794, Thomas Holcroft, chapter 6, in The Adventures of Hugh Trevor[19], volume 1, London: Shepperson and Reynolds, page 46:
      My half frozen blood and my fears again afloat made me tremble through every limb;
    • 1821, William Hazlitt, Table-Talk[20], London: John Warren, Essay 1, page 3:
      No angry passions rise to disturb the silent progress of the work, [] no irritable humours are set afloat:
  9. (obsolete) In a state of confusion or bewilderment.
    Synonym: at sea
    • 1789, Edward Gibbon, letter to Lord Sheffield dated August 1789, in Miscellaneous Works, London: A. Strahan et al., 1796, p. 201,[21]
      I know not what to say; my mind is all afloat; yet you will not reproach me with caprice or inconstancy.
    • 1878, John Berwick Harwood, chapter 17, in Helena Lady Harrogate,[22], volume 1, London: Richard Bentley, page 312:
      [] they knew how to abstain from the overdose of liquor that sets the brain afloat and loosens the tongue.
    • 1887, Harry Castlemon, chapter 1, in Our Fellows[23], Philadelphia: John C. Winston, page 10:
      [] he could correctly analyze and parse any sentence you could give him, no matter how complex; but when it came to talking he was all afloat.




  1. (obsolete) Floating on.
    • early 1600s, John Webster and William Rowley, The Thracian Wonder, London: Thomas Johnson, 1661, Act I, Scene 1,[24]
      But Huswife, as for you, / You with your Brat, wee’l send afloat the Main,
    • 1642, Robert Cotton, The Troublesome Life and Raigne of King Henry the Third[25], London: George Lindsey, page 5:
      [] great wee see must be the art and cunning of that man, that keeps him afloat the streame of Soveraigne favour,