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.]
The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fifth Edition copyright ©2016 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.
The American Heritage Dictionary Blog
Check out our blog, updated regularly, for new words and revised definitions, interesting images from the 5th edition, discussions of usage, and more.
American Heritage Dictionary Products
The American Heritage Dictionary, 5th Edition
The American Heritage Dictionary of Idioms
The American Heritage Roget's Thesaurus
Curious George's Dictionary
The American Heritage Children's Dictionary
The American Heritage Dictionary of Indo-European Roots
The American Heritage Student Grammar Dictionary
The American Heritage Desk Dictionary + Thesaurus
The American Heritage Science Dictionary
The American Heritage Dictionary of Business Terms
The American Heritage Student Dictionary
The American Heritage Essential Student Thesaurus