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Etymology 1Edit

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


fleet (plural fleets)

  1. A group of vessels or vehicles.
  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.
  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 formsEdit
Derived termsEdit

Etymology 2Edit

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). Cognate with Dutch vliet (stream, river, creek, inlet).


fleet (plural fleets)

  1. (obsolete, dialectal) An arm of the sea; a run of water, such as an inlet or a creek.
    • (Can we date this quote?) John Lewis (1736)
      a certain fleet [...] through which little boats used to come to the aforesaid town
    • (Can we date this quote?) Matthewes
      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 termsEdit

Etymology 3Edit

From Middle English fleten (float), from Old English flēotan (float), 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) To pass over rapidly; to skim the surface of.
    a ship that fleets the gulf
    (Can we find and add a quotation of Spenser to this entry?)
  3. (transitive, intransitive) To hasten over; to cause to pass away lightly, or in mirth and joy.
    • c. 1599, William Shakespeare, As You Like It, Act I scene i[3]:
      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. 1596-97, William Shakespeare, The Merchant of Venice, Act IV scene i[4]:
      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.
  5. (intransitive) To evanesce, disappear, die out.
    • c. 1596-97, William Shakespeare, The Merchant of Venice, Act III scene ii:
      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.
    (Can we find and add a quotation of Totten to this entry?)
  7. (nautical, intransitive, of people) To move or change in position.
    • (Can we date this quote?) F. T. Bullen
      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
    • (Can we date this quote?) John Milton
      In mail their horses clad, yet fleet and strong.
    • 1908, Kenneth Grahame, The Wind in the Willows:
      [...]it was not till the afternoon that they came out on the high-road, their first high-road; and there disaster, fleet and unforeseen, sprang out on them — disaster momentous indeed to their expedition[...]
  2. (uncommon) Light; superficially thin; not penetrating deep, as soil.
    (Can we find and add a quotation of Mortimer to this entry?)

Derived termsEdit



Middle EnglishEdit



  1. Alternative form of flete (bay)