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Late 16th century, from French carene (keel), from Genoese Ligurian carena, from Latin carīna (keel of a ship). Doublet of carene and carina.


  • IPA(key): /kəˈɹiːn/
  • (file)
  • Rhymes: -iːn


careen (third-person singular simple present careens, present participle careening, simple past and past participle careened)

  1. (nautical, transitive) To heave a ship down on one side so as to expose the other, in order to clean it of barnacles and weed, or to repair it below the water line.
  2. (nautical, intransitive) To tilt on one side.
    Synonym: heel
  3. To lurch or sway violently from side to side.
    • 1909, E. M. Forster, “Chapter I”, in The Machine Stops:
      They were not motionless, but swayed to and fro above her head, thronging out of one sky-light into another, as if the universe and not the air-ship was careening.
  4. To tilt or lean while in motion. [from late 19th c.]
  5. (chiefly US) To career, to move rapidly straight ahead, to rush carelessly. [from at least early 20th c.]
  6. (chiefly US) To move swiftly and in an uncontrolled way.
    • 2008, Philip Roth, Indignation:
      The car in which I had taken Olivia to dinner and then out to the cemetery — a historic vehicle, even a monument of sorts, in the history of fellatio's advent onto the Winesburg campus in the second half of the twentieth century — went careening off to the side and turned end-over-end down Lower Main until it exploded in flames...
    • 2016 December 20, Katie Rife, “Passengers strains the considerable charms of Chris Pratt and Jennifer Lawrence”, in The Onion AV Club[1]:
      He tries for a lot of things, careening wildly from earnest romance to feel-good comedy to hackneyed suspense, all the while leaving it up to the audience to suss out the moral complexity and existential terror underneath the glossy surface.

Usage notes[edit]

The "move rapidly" senses are considered by some, especially in British English, to be an error due to confusion with "career".

Derived terms[edit]



careen (plural careens)

  1. (nautical) The position of a ship laid on one side.





  1. inflection of carear:
    1. third-person plural present subjunctive
    2. third-person plural imperative