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a- +‎ float



afloat (not comparable)

  1. Floating.
    A rubber duck and other toys were afloat in the bath.
    • c. 1599, William Shakespeare, Julius Caesar, Act IV, Scene 3,[1]
      On such a full sea are we now afloat; / And we must take the current when it serves, / Or lose our ventures.
    • 1668, John Dryden, Sir Martin Mar-all, London: H. Herringman, Act II, p. 22,[2]
      You have so little Brains, that a Penn’orth of Butter melted under ’um, would set ’um afloat:
    • 1719, Daniel Defoe, Robinson Crusoe, London: W. Taylor, p. 224,[3]
      [] I went down to my Boat, got the Water out of her, and got her afloat, loaded all my Cargo in her, and then went Home again for more;
    • 1881, Christina Rossetti, “De Profundis” in A Pageant and Other Poems, London: Macmillan, p. 60,[4]
      Oh why is heaven built so far, / Oh why is earth set so remote? / I cannot reach the nearest star / That hangs afloat.
  2. In a vessel at sea or on another body of water.
    Antonym: ashore
    • 1788, Alexander Jardine, Letters from Barbary, France, Spain, Portugal, &c., London: T. Cadell, Volume 2, Letter 23, p. 236,[5]
      [] that trade [] may likewise employ many useful hands both ashore and afloat,
    • 1883, Robert Louis Stevenson, Treasure Island, London: Cassell, Chapter 11, p. 88,[6]
      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, Tales of the South Pacific, New York: Dial, 2014, “The Strike,” p. 315,[7]
      Navy chow ashore is rarely as good as it is afloat, and for enlisted men it is usually much worse.
  3. (of hair or clothing) Floating in the air; flowing freely; not tied, braided, etc.
    • 1749, John Cleland, Fanny Hill, New York: Putnam, 1963, Letter 1, p. 70,[8]
      her black hair loose and a-float down her dazzling white neck
    • 1971, Poul Anderson, The Broken Sword, New York: Ballantine Books, 1981, Chapter 4, p. 11,[9]
      unbound silvery-gold tresses afloat beneath a jeweled coronet
    • 2000, Zadie Smith, White Teeth, London: Hamish Hamilton, Chapter 7, p. 152,[10]
      [] she roars down the street, dreads and feathers and cape afloat,
  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,”[11]
      [] it [the River Dove] overflows and lays the meadows afloat in April, like another Nile
    • 1938, Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings, The Yearling, New York: Scribner, Chapter 19, p. 233,[12]
      The yard was afloat. Jody looked out of the window and saw two drowned biddies floating about with upturned bellies.
  5. (figuratively) Covered, overspread (with or in something).
    Synonym: awash
  6. (of an organization) 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.
    Synonyms: on one's feet, solvent
    Antonyms: bankrupt, insolvent
    The donation will keep our business afloat for quite a while.
    • 1549, Miles Coverdale (translator), The Paraphrase of Erasmus upon the New Testament, London: Edward Whitchurche, Volume 2, Philippians 4,[16]
      [] 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, The Adventures of Ferdinand, Count Fathom, Edinburgh: Mundell & Son, 1800, Chapter 54, pp. 306-307,[17]
      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.
    • 1848, William Makepeace Thackeray, Vanity Fair, London: Bradbury and Evans, Chapter 34, p. 309,[18]
      [] 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;
    • 2010, Nadifa Mohamed, Black Mamba Boy, New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, p. 67,[19]
      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
  8. (obsolete, of an emotional state) Stimulated, aroused.
    • 1769, Elizabeth Griffith, The School for Rakes, London: T. Becket and P.A. De Hondt, Epilogue, p. 92,[24]
      You’ll find, when once my passion is afloat, / The soul of Caesar, in a petticoat!
    • 1794, Thomas Holcroft, The Adventures of Hugh Trevor, London: Shepperson and Reynolds, Volume 1, Chapter 6, p. 46,[25]
      My half frozen blood and my fears again afloat made me tremble through every limb;
    • 1821, William Hazlitt, Table-Talk, London: John Warren, Essay 1, p. 3,[26]
      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,[27]
      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, Helena Lady Harrogate, London: Richard Bentley, Volume 1, Chapter 17, p. 312,[28]
      [] they knew how to abstain from the overdose of liquor that sets the brain afloat and loosens the tongue.
    • 1887, Harry Castlemon, Our Fellows, Philadelphia: John C. Winston, Chapter 1, p. 10,[29]
      [] 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,[30]
      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, London: George Lindsey, p. 5,[31]
      [] great wee see must be the art and cunning of that man, that keeps him afloat the streame of Soveraigne favour,