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Late 16th century, from French carene (keel), from Genoese Ligurian carena, from Latin carina (keel of a ship), from Proto-Indo-European *kert-, *kret- (strong, powerful), see also Ancient Greek κράτυς (krátus, strong), κράτος (krátos, strength, power, dominion).



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

  1. (nautical) 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) To tilt on one side.
  3. To lurch or sway violently from side to side.
  4. To tilt or lean while in motion. [from late 19th c.]
  5. (chiefly US) To career, to move rapidly straight ahead. [from at least early 20th c.]
    • 1909, E.M. Forster, “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.
  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...

Usage note[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]






  1. Second-person plural (ustedes) imperative form of carear.
  2. Second-person plural (ustedes) present subjunctive form of carear.
  3. Third-person plural (ellos, ellas, also used with ustedes?) present subjunctive form of carear.