From Middle English floten, from Old English flotian (to float), from Proto-West Germanic *flotōn, from Proto-Germanic *flutōną (to float), from Proto-Indo-European *plewd-, *plew- (to float, swim, fly). Cognate with Saterland Frisian flotje (to float), West Frisian flotsje (to float), Dutch vlotten (to float), Middle Low German vloten, vlotten (to float, swim), German flötzen, flößen (to float), Swedish flotta (to float), Icelandic fljóta, Old English flēotan (to float, swim), Ancient Greek πλέω (pléō), Lithuanian plaukti, Russian пла́вать (plávatʹ), Latin plaustrum (wagon, cart). Compare flow, fleet.


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float (third-person singular simple present floats, present participle floating, simple past and past participle floated)

  1. (intransitive) Of an object or substance, to be supported by a liquid of greater density than the object so as that part of the object or substance remains above the surface.
    The boat floated on the water.
    The oil floated on the vinegar.
  2. (transitive) To cause something to be suspended in a liquid of greater density.
    to float a boat
  3. (intransitive) To be capable of floating.
    That boat doesn’t float.
    Oil floats on vinegar.
  4. (intransitive) To move in a particular direction with the liquid in which one is floating
    I’d love to just float downstream.
  5. (intransitive) To drift or wander aimlessly.
    I’m not sure where they went... they’re floating around here somewhere.
    Images from my childhood floated through my mind.
  6. (intransitive) To drift gently through the air.
    The balloon floated off into the distance.
  7. (intransitive) To move in a fluid manner.
    The dancer floated gracefully around the stage.
  8. (intransitive, figuratively) To circulate.
    There's a rumour floating around the office that Jan is pregnant.
  9. (intransitive, colloquial) (of an idea or scheme) To be viable.
    That’s a daft idea... it’ll never float.
  10. (transitive) To propose (an idea) for consideration.
    I floated the idea of free ice-cream on Fridays, but no one was interested.
  11. (intransitive) To automatically adjust a parameter as related parameters change.
  12. (intransitive, finance) (of currencies) To have an exchange value determined by the markets as opposed to by rule.
    The yen floats against the dollar.
  13. (transitive, finance) To allow (the exchange value of a currency) to be determined by the markets.
    The government floated the pound in January.
    Increased pressure on Thailand’s currency, the baht, in 1997 led to a crisis that forced the government to float the currency.
  14. (transitive, colloquial) To extend a short-term loan to.
    Could you float me $50 until payday?
  15. (transitive, finance) To issue or sell shares in a company (or units in a trust) to members of the public, followed by listing on a stock exchange.
    • 2005 June 21, Dewi Cooke, The Age [1],
      He [Mario Moretti Polegato] floated the company on the Milan Stock Exchange last December and sold 29 per cent of its shares, mostly to American investors.
    • 2007, Jonathan Reuvid, Floating Your Company: The Essential Guide to Going Public.
    • 2011, Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, SIPRI Yearbook 2011: Armaments, Disarmament and International Security, footnote i, page 269,
      As a result of this reverse acquisition, Hurlingham changed its name to Manroy plc and floated shares on the Alternative Investment Market in London.
  16. (transitive) To spread plaster over (a surface), using the tool called a float.
    • 1932, The Bricklayer, Mason and Plasterer (volumes 35-37, page 35)
      This wire, nailed over the face of the old plaster will also reinforce any loose lath or plaster after the walls have set. Float the wall to the face of the lath first.
  17. (transitive) To use a float (rasp-like tool) upon.
    It is time to float this horse's teeth.
  18. (transitive) To transport by float (vehicular trailer).
  19. (poker) To perform a float.
  20. (computing, transitive) To cause (an element within a document) to float above or beside others.
    • 2010, Andy Harris, HTML, XHTML and CSS All-In-One For Dummies (page 290)
      To get the footer acting right, you need to float it and clear it on both margins.

Derived termsEdit


The translations below need to be checked and inserted above into the appropriate translation tables, removing any numbers. Numbers do not necessarily match those in definitions. See instructions at Wiktionary:Entry layout § Translations.


A small plane on floats (buoyant devices)

float (plural floats)

  1. A buoyant device used to support something in water or another liquid.
    Attach the float and the weight to the fishing line, above the hook.
    • 1983, The Fisherman Who Laughed, page 40:
      `What you need are frogs,' said the veteran. `Fish them at night. There's nothing like them on big cork floats.'
  2. A mass of timber or boards fastened together, and conveyed down a stream by the current; a raft.
  3. A float board.
  4. A tool similar to a rasp, used in various trades.
  5. A sort of trowel used for finishing concrete surfaces or smoothing plaster.
    When pouring a new driveway, you can use a two-by-four as a float.
  6. An elaborately decorated trailer or vehicle, intended for display in a parade or pageant.
    That float covered in roses is very pretty.
  7. (Britain) A small vehicle used for local deliveries, especially in the term milk float.
  8. (finance) Funds committed to be paid but not yet paid.
    Our bank does a nightly sweep of accounts, to adjust the float so we stay within our reserves limit.
  9. (finance, Australia, and other Commonwealth countries?) An offering of shares in a company (or units in a trust) to members of the public, normally followed by a listing on a stock exchange.
  10. (banking) The total amount of checks/cheques or other drafts written against a bank account but not yet cleared and charged against the account.
    No sir, your current float is not taken into account, when assets are legally garnished.
  11. (insurance) Premiums taken in but not yet paid out.
    We make a lot of interest from our nightly float.
  12. (programming) A floating-point number, especially one that has lower precision than a double.
    That routine should not have used an int; it should be a float.
    • 2011, Rubin H. Landau, A First Course in Scientific Computing (page 214)
      If you want to be a scientist or an engineer, learn to say “no” to singles and floats.
  13. A soft beverage with a scoop of ice-cream floating in it.
    It's true - I don't consider anything other than root-beer with vanilla ice-cream to be a "real" float.
  14. A small sum of money put in a cashier's till at the start of business to enable change to be made.
  15. (poker) A maneuver where a player calls on the flop or turn with a weak hand, with the intention of bluffing after a subsequent community card.
  16. (knitting) One of the loose ends of yarn on an unfinished work.
  17. (automotive) a car carrier or car transporter truck or truck-and-trailer combination
  18. (transport) a lowboy trailer
  19. (tempering) A device sending a copious stream of water to the heated surface of a bulky object, such as an anvil or die.
    (Can we find and add a quotation of Knight to this entry?)
  20. (obsolete) The act of flowing; flux; flow.
    (Can we find and add a quotation of Francis Bacon to this entry?)
  21. (Can we verify(+) this sense?) A quantity of earth, eighteen feet square and one foot deep.
    • 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 13320837:
      They are measured by the Float or Floor, which is eighteen Foot square, and one deep, which contains twelve Cart-load in good Mould
  22. A polishing block used in marble working; a runner.
    (Can we find and add a quotation of Knight to this entry?)
  23. (Britain, dated) A coal cart[1].
  24. A breakdancing move in which the body is held parallel to the floor while balancing on one or both hands.
  25. (computing) A visual style on a web page that causes the styled elements to float above or beside others.
    • 2007, Michael Bowers, Pro CSS and HTML Design Patterns (page 93)
      When a float cannot fit next to another float, it moves down below it. A float's position, size, padding, borders, and margins affect the position of adjacent floats and adjacent inline content.
  26. (biology) The gas-filled sac, bag or body of a siphonophore; a pneumatophore


Derived termsEdit



  1. ^ 1858, Peter Lund Simmonds, The Dictionary of Trade Products





  1. fleet, navy