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Etymology 1[edit]

From Middle English flete, flet (fleet), from Old English flēot (ship), likely related to Proto-West Germanic *flotōn, from Proto-Germanic *flutōną (to float).


fleet (plural fleets)

  1. A group of vessels or vehicles.
    • 1665 October 11 (date written; Gregorian calendar), Samuel Pepys, Mynors Bright, transcriber, “October 1st, 1665 (Lord’s Day)”, in Henry B[enjamin] Wheatley, editor, The Diary of Samuel Pepys [], volume V, London: George Bell & Sons []; Cambridge: Deighton Bell & Co., published 1895, →OCLC, page 100:
      He did discourse to us of the Dutch fleete being abroad, eighty-five of them still, and are now at the Texell, he believes, in expectation of our Eastland ships coming home with masts and hempe, and our loaden Hambrough ships going to Hambrough.
  2. Any group of associated items.
    • 2004, Jim Hoskins, Building an on Demand Computing Environment with IBM:
      This is especially true in distributed printing environments, where a fleet of printers is shared by users on a network.
  3. A large, coordinated group of people.
    • 2019 July 17, Talia Lavin, “When Non-Jews Wield Anti-Semitism as Political Shield”, in GQ[1]:
      And after the past few days, in which a fleet of Republicans and the president himself have utilized Jews as human shields for racist rhetoric, the Jews are tired, tired, tired of being used as defenses against naked racism, tired of being used to justify conditions at detention camps. Just plain tired.
  4. (nautical) A number of vessels in company, especially war vessels; also, the collective naval force of a country, etc.
    • 2021 October 20, Paul Stephen, “Leisure and pleasure on the Far North Line”, in RAIL, number 942, page 48:
      Despite the line proving to be a useful strategic route for men and supplies to the British naval fleets stationed at Scapa Flow in both world wars, the Duke's legacy looked to have passed into history when it was listed for closure in the infamous Beeching report.
  5. (nautical, British Royal Navy) Any command of vessels exceeding a squadron in size, or a rear admiral's command, composed of five sail-of-the-line, with any number of smaller vessels.
Alternative forms[edit]
Derived terms[edit]

Etymology 2[edit]

From Middle English flete, flete (bay, gulf), from Old English flēot (a bay, gulf, an arm of the sea, estuary, the mouth of a river), from Proto-West Germanic *fleut, from Proto-Germanic *fleutą.

Cognate with Dutch vliet (stream, river, creek, inlet), German Fleet (watercourse, canal).


fleet (plural fleets)

  1. (dialectal, obsolete outside of place names) An arm of the sea; a run of water, such as an inlet or a creek.
    • 1723, John Lewis, The History and Antiquities, Ecclesiastical and Civil, of the Isle of Tenet in Kent:
      a certain Flete [...] through which little Boats used to come to the aforesaid Town
    • 1628, A. Matthewes (translator), Aminta (originally by Torquato Tasso)
      Together wove we nets to entrap the fish
      In floods and sedgy fleets.
  2. (nautical) A location, as on a navigable river, where barges are secured.
Derived terms[edit]

Etymology 3[edit]

From Middle English fleten (float), from Old English flēotan (float), from Proto-West Germanic *fleutan, from Proto-Germanic *fleutaną.


fleet (third-person singular simple present fleets, present participle fleeting, simple past and past participle fleeted)

  1. (obsolete, intransitive) To float.
  2. (transitive, intransitive) To pass over rapidly; to skim the surface of.
  3. (transitive, intransitive) To hasten over; to cause to pass away lightly, or in mirth and joy.
    • c. 1598–1600 (date written), William Shakespeare, “As You Like It”, in Mr. William Shakespeares Comedies, Histories, & Tragedies [] (First Folio), London: [] Isaac Iaggard, and Ed[ward] Blount, published 1623, →OCLC, [Act I, scene i]:
      They say he is already in the Forest of Arden, and a many merry men with him; and there they live like the old Robin Hood of England. They say many young gentlemen flock to him every day and fleet the time carelessly, as they did in the golden world.
    • 1817-18, Percy Shelley, Rosalind and Helen, lines 626-627:
      And so through this dark world they fleet / Divided, till in death they meet.
  4. (intransitive) To flee, to escape, to speed away.
    • c. 1596–1598 (date written), William Shakespeare, “The Merchant of Venice”, in Mr. William Shakespeares Comedies, Histories, & Tragedies [] (First Folio), London: [] Isaac Iaggard, and Ed[ward] Blount, published 1623, →OCLC, [Act IV, scene i]:
      Gratiano:O, be thou damn'd, inexecrable dog!
      And for thy life let justice be accused.
      Thou almost makest me waver in my faith,
      To hold opinion with Pythagoras,
      That souls of animals infuse themselves
      Into the trunks of men: thy currish spirit
      Govern'd a wolf, who, hang'd for human slaughter,
      Even from the gallows did his fell soul fleet,
      And, whilst thou lay'st in thy unhallow'd dam,
      Infused itself in thee; for thy desires
      Are wolfish, bloody, starved, and ravenous.
    • 1881–1882, Robert Louis Stevenson, Treasure Island, London, Paris: Cassell & Company, published 14 November 1883, →OCLC:
      It began to be chill; the tide was rapidly fleeting seaward, the schooner settling more and more on her beam-ends.
  5. (intransitive) To evanesce, disappear, die out.
    • c. 1596–1598 (date written), William Shakespeare, “The Merchant of Venice”, in Mr. William Shakespeares Comedies, Histories, & Tragedies [] (First Folio), London: [] Isaac Iaggard, and Ed[ward] Blount, published 1623, →OCLC, [Act III, scene ii]:
      Portia:How all other passions fleet to air,
      As doubtful thoughts, and rash-embraced despair,
      And shuddering fear, and green-eyed jealousy!
      O love, be moderate; allay thy ecstasy;
      In measure rain thy joy; scant this excess!
      I feel too much thy blessing; make it less,
      For fear I surfeit!
  6. (nautical) To move up a rope, so as to haul to more advantage; especially to draw apart the blocks of a tackle.
    • 1899, Regulations for the Government of the Life-Saving Service of the United States:
      To fleet tackle when pennant block is used, the keeper, with a strap and heaver, racks both parts of hawser together near pennant block, and the tackle is then overhauled and hooked by the men assigned to those duties.
  7. (nautical, intransitive, of people) To move or change in position.
    • 1898, Frank T. Bullen, The Cruise of the "Cachalot":
      We got the long "stick" [...] down and "fleeted" aft, where it was secured.
  8. (nautical, obsolete) To shift the position of dead-eyes when the shrouds are become too long.
  9. To cause to slip down the barrel of a capstan or windlass, as a rope or chain.
  10. To take the cream from; to skim.


fleet (comparative fleeter or more fleet, superlative fleetest or most fleet)

  1. (literary) Swift in motion; light and quick in going from place to place.
    Synonyms: nimble, fast
  2. (uncommon) Light; superficially thin; not penetrating deep, as soil.
    • 1707, J[ohn] Mortimer, The Whole Art of Husbandry; or, The Way of Managing and Improving of Land. [], 2nd edition, London: [] J[ohn] H[umphreys] for H[enry] Mortlock [], and J[onathan] Robinson [], published 1708, →OCLC:
      fleet Soil, and that 'tis mixed with a great quantity of Earth, Marle, Mud or Clay, &c.
Derived terms[edit]

Etymology 4[edit]

See flet.


fleet (plural fleets)

  1. (Yorkshire) Obsolete form of flet (house, floor, large room).
    • 1686, "Lyke Wake Dirge" as printed in The Oxford Book of English Verse (1900) p. 361:
      Fire and fleet and candle-lighte


Middle English[edit]



  1. Alternative form of flete (bay)