drift

If you get my drift, you get the basic meaning of what I'm saying. Or, if you move around without a seeming fixed destination, you are said to drift — whether you're a snowflake or a homeless person.

Interestingly, the verb to drift can be used either approvingly or disapprovingly. We rather admire the freedom of certain objects that drift, such as snow drifts or drift wood, but applied to people we're a bit more critical: we tend to harbor suspicions of the carefree Gypsy or nomad, hence the moral criticism (and danger) inherent in the term drifters.

PRIMARY MEANINGS OF: drift

1
vn
be in motion due to some air or water current
a force that moves something along
2
vn
wander from a direct course or at random
a general tendency to change (as of opinion)
3
v
move in an unhurried fashion
4
vn
be piled up in banks or heaps by the force of wind or a current
a large mass of material that is heaped up by the wind or by water currents
5
n
the pervading meaning or tenor
6
n
a horizontal (or nearly horizontal) passageway in a mine
FULL DEFINITIONS OF: drift
1

v be in motion due to some air or water current

“the boat drifted on the lake”
“the shipwrecked boat drifted away from the shore”
Synonyms:
be adrift, blow, float
float
move lightly, as if suspended
Types:
waft
be driven or carried along, as by the air
tide
be carried with the tide
stream
to extend, wave or float outward, as if in the wind
Type of:
go, locomote, move, travel
change location; move, travel, or proceed, also metaphorically

v cause to be carried by a current

drift the boats downstream”
Synonyms
be adrift, blow, float
be in motion due to some air or water current
Type of:
float
set afloat

v drive slowly and far afield for grazing

drift the cattle herds westwards”
Type of:
crop, graze, pasture
let feed in a field or pasture or meadow

n a force that moves something along

Synonyms:
impetus, impulsion
Type of:
force
(physics) the influence that produces a change in a physical quantity
2

v wander from a direct course or at random

“don't drift from the set course”
Synonyms:
err, stray
cast, ramble, range, roam, roll, rove, stray, swan, tramp, vagabond, wander
move about aimlessly or without any destination, often in search of food or employment
Type of:
go, locomote, move, travel
change location; move, travel, or proceed, also metaphorically

v vary or move from a fixed point or course

“stock prices are drifting higher”
Type of:
vary
be subject to change in accordance with a variable

v be subject to fluctuation

“The stock market drifted upward”
Type of:
change
undergo a change; become different in essence; losing one's or its original nature

n a general tendency to change (as of opinion)

Synonyms:
movement, trend
Types:
evolutionary trend
a general direction of evolutionary change
gravitation
a figurative movement toward some attraction
neoteny
an evolutionary trend to be born earlier so that development is cut off at an earlier stage and juvenile characteristics are retained in adults of the species
Type of:
disposition, inclination, tendency
an attitude of mind especially one that favors one alternative over others

n a process of linguistic change over a period of time

Types:
melioration
the linguistic process in which over a period of time a word grows more positive in connotation or more elevated in meaning
Type of:
linguistic process
a process involved in human language

n the gradual departure from an intended course due to external influences (as a ship or plane)

Types:
leeway
(of a ship or plane) sideways drift
Type of:
action, activity, natural action, natural process
a process existing in or produced by nature (rather than by the intent of human beings)
3

v move in an unhurried fashion

“The unknown young man drifted among the invited guests”
Synonyms
freewheel
live unhurriedly, irresponsibly, or freely
Type of:
circulate
move around freely

v live unhurriedly, irresponsibly, or freely

“My son drifted around for years in California before going to law school”
Synonyms:
freewheel
Type of:
exist, live, subsist, survive
support oneself

v move about aimlessly or without any destination, often in search of food or employment

“the laborers drift from one town to the next”
Synonyms:
cast, ramble, range, roam, roll, rove, stray, swan, tramp, vagabond, wander
err, stray
wander from a direct course or at random
wander
go via an indirect route or at no set pace
Types:
maunder
wander aimlessly
gad, gallivant, jazz around
wander aimlessly in search of pleasure
Type of:
go, locomote, move, travel
change location; move, travel, or proceed, also metaphorically
4

v be piled up in banks or heaps by the force of wind or a current

“snow drifting several feet high”
“sand drifting like snow”
Type of:
accumulate, amass, conglomerate, cumulate, gather, pile up
collect or gather

n a large mass of material that is heaped up by the wind or by water currents

Types:
drumlin
a mound of glacial drift
snowdrift
a mass of snow heaped up by the wind
Type of:
mass
a body of matter without definite shape
5

n the pervading meaning or tenor

“caught the general drift of the conversation”
Synonyms:
purport
Type of:
strain, tenor
the general meaning or substance of an utterance
6

n a horizontal (or nearly horizontal) passageway in a mine

“they dug a drift parallel with the vein”
Synonyms:
gallery, heading
Type of:
passageway
a passage between rooms or between buildings
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