Definition of drift verb from the Oxford Advanced Learner's Dictionary



    BrE BrE//drɪft//
    ; NAmE NAmE//drɪft//
    Verb Forms present simple I / you / we / they drift
    BrE BrE//drɪft//
    ; NAmE NAmE//drɪft//
    he / she / it drifts
    BrE BrE//drɪfts//
    ; NAmE NAmE//drɪfts//
    past simple drifted
    BrE BrE//ˈdrɪftɪd//
    ; NAmE NAmE//ˈdrɪftɪd//
    past participle drifted
    BrE BrE//ˈdrɪftɪd//
    ; NAmE NAmE//ˈdrɪftɪd//
    -ing form drifting
    BrE BrE//ˈdrɪftɪŋ//
    ; NAmE NAmE//ˈdrɪftɪŋ//
    jump to other results
    move slowly
  1. 1[intransitive] (+ adv./prep.) to move along smoothly and slowly in water or air Clouds drifted across the sky. The empty boat drifted out to sea. A cool breeze drifted through the open window. Smoke drifted across the room.
  2. 2[intransitive] + adv./prep. to move or go somewhere slowly The crowd drifted away from the scene of the accident. Her gaze drifted around the room. People began to drift back to their houses.
  3. without purpose
  4. 3[intransitive] (+ adv./prep.) to happen or change, or to do something without a particular plan or purpose I didn't intend to be a teacher—I just drifted into it. He hasn't decided what to do yet—he's just drifting. The conversation drifted onto politics.
  5. into state/situation
  6. 4[intransitive] drift in/into something to go from one situation or state to another without realizing it Finally she drifted into sleep. The injured man tried to speak but soon drifted into unconsciousness.
  7. of snow/sand
  8. 5[intransitive] to be blown into large piles by the wind drifting sand Some roads are closed because of drifting.
  9. float
  10. 6[transitive] + adv./prep. to make something float somewhere The logs are drifted downstream to the mill.
  11. Word OriginMiddle English (in the sense ‘mass of snow, leaves, etc.’): originally from Old Norse drift ‘snowdrift, something driven’; in later use from Middle Dutch drift ‘course, current’.Extra examples Cold and hungry, they drifted helplessly closer to the Arctic. He allowed his thoughts to drift back to his conversation with Carrie. He drifted in and out of consciousness. He drifted into teaching, but never really enjoyed it. He drifted off into a deep slumber. He finally drifted back to his home town. He spent the day drifting aimlessly about the house. Her gaze gradually drifted to the bookshelf. Over the years the two friends drifted apart. She began to drift between sleep and wakefulness. She closed her eyes and slowly drifted off to sleep. She drifted across the room to where we were standing. Smoke drifted up from the campfire. The boat drifted slowly downstream. They were drifting out to sea. Voices drifted up through the floorboards. We drifted with the current. We seem to be drifting away from the point. A single snowflake drifted down and settled on the ground. His cigarette smoke drifted away on the breeze. I spent the next decade drifting aimlessly from place to place. The boat drifted out to sea. The crowd slowly drifted away from the scene. They drifted around south-east Asia for a while and then headed into China. White clouds drifted across the sky. Phrasal Verbsdrift apartdrift off (to sleep)
See the Oxford Advanced American Dictionary entry: drift