Whether it’s an unsteady ship, a speeding bus, or a person who is woozy, use the verb careen to describe something that’s teetering from side to side.

When the word careen first entered the English language in the sixteenth century, it was used to describe a beached ship that was turned on its side for repair. The word can still refer to making those kinds of nautical repairs, but now you’re more likely to hear the word used to describe something that is swaying from side to side. You may feel like a ship out of control if you careen madly through a crowd or if you careen down a steep hill on skis.

Primary Meanings of careen

pitching dangerously to one side
move sideways or in an unsteady way
Full Definitions of careen

n pitching dangerously to one side

rock, sway, tilt
Type of:
lurch, pitch, pitching
abrupt up-and-down motion (as caused by a ship or other conveyance)

v move sideways or in an unsteady way

“The ship careened out of control”
shift, tilt, wobble
Type of:
move so as to change position, perform a nontranslational motion

v walk as if unable to control one's movements

keel, lurch, reel, stagger, swag
Type of:
use one's feet to advance; advance by steps

Sign up, it's free!

Whether you're a student, an educator, or a lifelong learner, can put you on the path to systematic vocabulary improvement.