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drift (drĭft)
v. drift·ed, drift·ing, drifts
1. To be carried along by currents of air or water: a balloon drifting eastward; as the wreckage drifted toward shore.
2. To proceed or move unhurriedly or aimlessly: drifting among the party guests; a day laborer, drifting from town to town.
3. To live or behave without a clear purpose or goal: drifted through his college years unable to decide on a career.
4. To have no continuing focus; stray: My attention drifted during the boring presentation.
5. To vary from or oscillate randomly about a fixed setting, position, or mode of operation.
6. To be piled up in banks or heaps by the force of a current: snow drifting to five feet.
1. To cause to be carried in a current: drifting the logs downstream.
2. To pile up in banks or heaps: Wind drifted the loose straw against the barn.
3. Western US To drive (livestock) slowly or far afield, especially for grazing.
1. Something moving along in a current of air or water: a drift of logs in the river.
2. A bank or pile, as of sand or snow, heaped up by currents of air or water.
3. Geology Rock debris transported and deposited by or from ice, especially by or from a glacier.
a. A general trend or tendency, as of opinion. See Synonyms at tendency.
b. General meaning or purport; tenor: caught the drift of the conversation.
a. A gradual change in position: an iceberg's eastward drift.
b. A gradual deviation from an original course, model, method, or intention.
c. Variation or random oscillation about a fixed setting, position, or mode of behavior.
6. A gradual change in the output of a circuit or amplifier.
7. The rate of flow of a water current.
a. A tool for ramming or driving something down.
b. A tapered steel pin for enlarging and aligning holes.
a. A horizontal or nearly horizontal passageway in a mine running through or parallel to a vein.
b. A secondary mine passageway between two main shafts or tunnels.
10. A drove or herd, especially of swine.

[From Middle English, drove, herd, act of driving; see dhreibh- in the Appendix of Indo-European roots.]

drifty adj.

The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fifth Edition copyright ©2022 by HarperCollins Publishers. All rights reserved.

Indo-European & Semitic Roots Appendices

    Thousands of entries in the dictionary include etymologies that trace their origins back to reconstructed proto-languages. You can obtain more information about these forms in our online appendices:

    Indo-European Roots

    Semitic Roots

    The Indo-European appendix covers nearly half of the Indo-European roots that have left their mark on English words. A more complete treatment of Indo-European roots and the English words derived from them is available in our Dictionary of Indo-European Roots.