From Middle English drift, dryft (“act of driving, drove, shower of rain or snow, impulse”), from Old English *drift (“drift”), from Proto-Germanic *driftiz (“drift”), from Proto-Indo-European *dʰreybʰ- (“to drive, push”). Equivalent to drive + -t; cognate with North Frisian drift (“drift”), Saterland Frisian Drift (“current, flow, stream, drift”), Dutch drift (“drift, passion, urge”), German Drift (“drift”) and Trift (“drove, pasture”), Danish drift (“impulse, instinct”), Swedish drift (“impulse, instinct”), Icelandic drift (“drift, snow-drift”).
drift (countable and uncountable, plural drifts)
- (physical) Movement; that which moves or is moved.
- Anything driven at random.
- A mass of matter which has been driven or forced onward together in a body, or thrown together in a heap, etc., especially by wind or water.
a drift of snow, of ice, of sand, of plants, etc.
1855, Elisha Kent Kane, Arctic explorations: The second Grinnell expedition in search of Sir John Franklin:
We […] got the brig a good bed in the rushing drift [of ice].
2012, David L. Culp, The Layered Garden: Design Lessons for Year-Round Beauty from Brandywine Cottage, Timber Press, page 168:
Many of these ground-layer plants were placed in naturalistic drifts to make it appear as if they were sowing themselves.
2023 November 29, Paul Clifton, “West is best in the Highlands”, in RAIL, number 997, page 39:
"During the winter, we get really bad snow conditions. We can go to eight inches of snow above the railhead, then the trains are stopped. It's usually more like four inches, but you get big drifts up towards Rannoch.
- The distance through which a current flows in a given time.
- A drove or flock, as of cattle, sheep, birds.
1648, Thomas Fuller, The History of the University of Cambridge since the Conquest:
cattle coming over the bridge (with their great drifts doing much damage to the high ways)
- A collection of loose earth and rocks, or boulders, which have been distributed over large portions of the earth's surface, especially in latitudes north of forty degrees, by the retreat of continental glaciers, such as that which buries former river valleys and creates young river valleys.
- 1867, E. Andrews, "Observations on the Glacial Drift beneath the bed of Lake Michigan," American Journal of Science and Arts, vol. 43, nos. 127-129, page 75:
- It is there seen that at a distance from the valleys of streams, the old glacial drift usually comes to the surface, and often rises into considerable eminences.
- Driftwood included in flotsam washed up onto the beach.
- (obsolete) A driving; a violent movement.
1332, author unknown, King Alisaunder:
The dragon drew him [self] away with drift of his wings.
- Course or direction along which anything is driven; setting.
1589, Richard Hakluyt, The Principall Navigations, Voiages, and Discoveries of the English Nation, […], London: […] George Bishop and Ralph Newberie, deputies to Christopher Barker, […], →OCLC:
Our drift was south.
- That which is driven, forced, or urged along.
1892, James Yoxall, chapter 5, in The Lonely Pyramid:
The desert storm was riding in its strength; the travellers lay beneath the mastery of the fell simoom. […] Drifts of yellow vapour, fiery, parching, stinging, filled the air.
- The act or motion of drifting; the force which impels or drives; an overpowering influence or impulse.
- 1678, Robert South, Prevention of Sin an unvaluable Mercy, sermon preached at Christ-Church, Oxon on November 10, 1678
- A bad man, being under the drift of any passion, will follow the impulse of it till something interpose.
- A place (a ford) along a river where the water is shallow enough to permit crossing to the opposite side.
- The tendency of an act, argument, course of conduct, or the like; object aimed at or intended; intention; hence, also, import or meaning of a sentence or discourse; aim.
c. 1587–1588, [Christopher Marlowe], Tamburlaine the Great. […] The First Part […], 2nd edition, part 1, London: […] [R. Robinson for] Richard Iones, […], published 1592, →OCLC; reprinted as Tamburlaine the Great (A Scolar Press Facsimile), Menston, Yorkshire, London: Scolar Press, 1973, →ISBN, (please specify the page):
The Gods defenders of the innocent,
Will neuer proſper your intended driftes,
That thus oppreſſe poore friendles paſſengers.
- c. early 1700s, Joseph Addison, A Discourse on Ancient and Modern Learning
- He has made the drift of the whole poem a compliment on his country in general.
- (architecture) The horizontal thrust or pressure of an arch or vault upon the abutments.
- (handiwork) A tool.
- A slightly tapered tool of steel for enlarging or shaping a hole in metal, by being forced or driven into or through it; a broach.
- A tool used to pack down the composition contained in a rocket, or like firework.
- A tool used to insert or extract a removable pin made of metal or hardwood, for the purpose of aligning and/or securing two pieces of material together.
- A deviation from the line of fire, peculiar to obloid projectiles.
- (uncountable) Minor deviation of audio or video playback from its correct speed.
1975, Broadcast Management/engineering, volume 11:
Reference sync servo system — permits minimal time-base error, assuring minimum jitter and drift.
- (uncountable, film) The situation where a performer gradually and unintentionally moves from their proper location within the scene.
1970, Michael Pate, The Film Actor: Acting for Motion Pictures and Television, page 64:
There is another form of drift when playing in a scene with other actors.
- (mining) A passage driven or cut between shaft and shaft; a driftway; a small subterranean gallery.
- (mining) An adit or tunnel driven forward for purposes of exploration or exploitation; generally eventually to a dead end.
- (mining) A sloping winze or road to the surface, for purposes of haulage.
- (mining) In a coal mine, a heading driven for exploration or ventilation.
- (mining) Of a boring or a driven tunnel: deviation from the intended course.
- (mining) A heading driven through a seam of coal.
- (nautical) Movement.
- The angle which the line of a ship's motion makes with the meridian, in drifting.
- The distance a vessel is carried off from her desired course by the wind, currents, or other causes.
- The place in a deep-waisted vessel where the sheer is raised and the rail is cut off, and usually terminated with a scroll, or driftpiece.
- The distance between the two blocks of a tackle.
- The difference between the size of a bolt and the hole into which it is driven, or between the circumference of a hoop and that of the mast on which it is to be driven.
- (cricket) A sideways movement of the ball through the air, when bowled by a spin bowler.
- Slow, cumulative change.
- In New Forest National Park, UK, the bi-annual round-up of wild ponies in order to be sold.
act or motion of drifting
shallow place in a river — see ford
course or direction along which anything is driven; setting
the tendency of an act, argument, course of conduct, or the like; object aimed at or intended; intention
that which is driven, forced, or urged along
anything driven at random
mass of matter which has been driven or forced onward together in a body, or thrown together in a heap, etc.
horizontal thrust or pressure of an arch or vault upon the abutments
collection of loose earth and rocks, or boulders, which have been distributed over large portions of the earth's surface
deviation from the line of fire, peculiar to obloid projectiles
passage driven or cut between shaft and shaft; a driftway; a small subterranean gallery; an adit or tunnel
distance through which a current flows in a given time
angle which the line of a ship's motion makes with the meridian, in drifting
distance to which a vessel is carried off from her desired course by the wind, currents, or other causes
place in a deep-waisted vessel where the sheer is raised and the rail is cut off
distance between the two blocks of a tackle
difference between the size of a bolt and the hole into which it is driven
sideways movement of the ball through the air, when bowled by a spin bowler
driftwood included in flotsam washed up onto the beach
Translations to be checked
drift (third-person singular simple present drifts, present participle drifting, simple past and past participle drifted)
- (intransitive) To move slowly, especially pushed by currents of water, air, etc.
The boat drifted away from the shore.
The balloon was drifting in the breeze.
1913, Joseph C. Lincoln, chapter 11, in Mr. Pratt's Patients:
One day I was out in the barn and he drifted in. I was currying the horse and he set down on the wheelbarrow and begun to ask questions.
- (intransitive) To move haphazardly without any destination.
He drifted from town to town, never settling down.
- (intransitive) To deviate gently from the intended direction of travel.
This car tends to drift left at high speeds.
2011 January 15, Saj Chowdhury, “Man City 4-3 Wolves”, in BBC:
Midway through the half, Argentine Tevez did begin to drift inside in order to exert his influence but by this stage Mick McCarthy's side had gone 1-0 up and looked comfortable.
- (transitive) To drive or carry, as currents do a floating body.
- 1865-1866, John Henry Newman, Apologia Pro Vita Sua
- I was drifted back first to the ante - Nicene history , and then to the Church of Alexandria
- (transitive) To drive into heaps.
A current of wind drifts snow or sand
- (intransitive) To accumulate in heaps by the force of wind; to be driven into heaps.
Snow or sand drifts.
- (mining, US) To make a drift; to examine a vein or ledge for the purpose of ascertaining the presence of metals or ores; to follow a vein; to prospect.
- (transitive, engineering) To enlarge or shape, as a hole, with a drift.
- (automotive) To oversteer a vehicle, causing loss of traction, while maintaining control from entry to exit of a corner. See Drifting (motorsport).
to move slowly, pushed by currents of water, air, etc
to move haphazardly without any destination
to deviate gently from the intended direction of travel
to drive or carry, as currents do a floating body
to accumulate in heaps by the force of wind
to make a drift; to examine a vein
to enlarge or shape, as a hole, with a drift
to oversteer a vehicle, causing loss of traction
From Old Norse drift, from Proto-Germanic *driftiz, cognate with Swedish drift, English drift, German Trift, Dutch drift. Derived form the verb *drībaną (“to drive”).
drift c (singular definite driften, plural indefinite drifter)
- (uncountable) operation, running (of a company, a service or a mashine)
- (uncountable) service (of public transport)
- (psychology) drive, urge, desire
- (uncountable) drift (slow movement in the water or the air)
- drove (driven animals)
From Middle Dutch drift, also dricht, from Old Dutch *drift, from Proto-West Germanic *drifti, from Proto-Germanic *driftiz.
drift f (plural driften)
- strong and sudden upwelling of anger: a fit
- urge, strong desire
- violent tendency
- flock (of sheep or oxen)
- deviation of direction caused by wind: drift
- path along which cattle are driven
From Old Norse dript.
drift f (genitive singular driftar, nominative plural driftir)
From Old Norse drift.
drift f or m (definite singular drifta or driften, indefinite plural drifter, definite plural driftene)
- operation (av / of)
From Old Norse drift.
drift f (definite singular drifta, indefinite plural drifter, definite plural driftene)
- operation (av / of)
- drift (being carried by currents)
- drive (motivation)
From Old Norse dript, from Proto-Germanic *driftiz.
- drift (uncontrolled movement)
Båten var på drift
- The boat was adrift ("on drift")
- urge, instinct
- sexual urges
- operation, management (singular only)
De ansvarar för driften av fabriken
- They are responsible for the operation of the factory
- running (of machinery or the like)
Maskinen blir mycket varm under drift
- The machine gets very hot while running
- making fun of (someone or something – compare driva)
Deras ständiga drift med henne
- Their constant making fun of her ("drift with her")