Meaning of “drift” in the English Dictionary

"drift" in British English

See all translations

driftverb [ I usually + adv/prep ]

uk /drɪft/ us /drɪft/

C2 to move slowly, especially as a result of outside forces, with no control over direction:

No one noticed that the boat had begun to drift out to sea.
A mist drifted in from the marshes.
After the band stopped playing, people drifted away in twos and threes.
figurative The talk drifted aimlessly from one subject to another.

More examples

  • When toxic fumes began to drift toward our homes, we were told to evacuate.
  • The smoke drifted downwind.
  • The boat drifted westwards in the prevailing winds.
  • The damaged boat drifted for days before it was finally taken in tow.
  • The country seems to be drifting towards war.

Phrasal verb(s)


uk /drɪft/ us /drɪft/

drift noun (MEANING)

[ S ] the general meaning without the details:

The general drift of the article was that society doesn't value older people.
catch/get sb's drift informal

to understand the general meaning of what someone is saying

if you catch/get my drift informal

used to say that you have left out information or your opinion from what you have just said, but that you expect the person listening still to understand it:

She's married, but she doesn't act as if she is, if you get my drift.

(Definition of “drift” from the Cambridge Advanced Learner’s Dictionary & Thesaurus © Cambridge University Press)

"drift" in American English

See all translations

driftverb [ I ]

us /drɪft/

drift verb [ I ] (MOVE)

to move slowly, esp. as a result of outside forces, with no control over direction:

He stopped rowing and let the boat drift.

Someone or something that drifts changes in a gradual way that seems to be controlled by outside forces:

I finally drifted off to sleep.


us /drɪft/

drift noun (MEANING)

[ U ] the general meaning or message of something said or written:

After a minute I caught his drift and grinned back.

drift noun (MOVE)

[ C ] a gradual change that seems to be controlled by outside forces:

Many people experience a drift toward more conservative politics as they get older.

[ C ] A drift is also a pile of something that is made larger by the force of the wind:

The state police closed the highway because of deep snow drifts.

(Definition of “drift” from the Cambridge Academic Content Dictionary © Cambridge University Press)

"drift" in Business English

See all translations

driftverb [ I ]

uk /drɪft/ us

FINANCE to slowly go up or down in value with no particular control over direction:

drift lower/down/downwards The airline's shares drifted down 15 cents at $5.80.
drift higher/up

driftnoun [ S or U ]

uk /drɪft/ us

FINANCE a slow change in value, with no particular control over direction:

an upward/downward drift in sth The downward drift in copper prices looks set to continue.

a slow development or change from one situation to another:

drift away from sth The company is not seeing evidence of any drift away from its premium brands.
drift to/toward sth There has been general unease about the drift toward a culture of selling, marketing, and consumerism.

a slow movement from one place to another:

a drift from sth to sth The population drift from the cities to the suburbs adds significantly to car use.

See also

(Definition of “drift” from the Cambridge Business English Dictionary © Cambridge University Press)

Blogs about "drift"