Definition of float in English:

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Pronunciation: /fləʊt/


[no object]
1Rest or move on or near the surface of a liquid without sinking: she relaxed, floating gently in the water
More example sentences
  • After floating near the surface for a few days, the raft sinks to the sea floor and the eggs hatch far away from their parents.
  • In nature, mussels start life as microscopic larvae floating near the surface of the sea.
  • The weed does not stick to the bottom; it floats on the surface and moves with the direction of the wind.
stay afloat, stay on the surface, be buoyant, be buoyed up
1.1 [with object and adverbial] Cause (a buoyant object) to rest or move on or near the surface of a liquid: trees were felled and floated downstream
More example sentences
  • Topping up casks of wine is essential in order to stop the wine turning into vinegar; alternatively, a layer of olive oil can be floated on the surface of the wine.
  • The metal's surface tension is great enough to permit a steel needle to be floated on its surface.
  • This introduces a lot of fine air bubbles into the effluent, floating the algal matter to the surface to be skimmed off.
1.2Be suspended freely in a liquid or gas: fragments of chipped cartilage floated in the joint
More example sentences
  • I felt a thrill of excitement as I floated weightless, suspended over the void.
  • The cells would break off and could be seen floating in suspension in the tissue culture medium.
  • Normally, we'd give you a cast and tell you to come see us in a few weeks, but there appear to be some bone chips floating around.
2 [with adverbial of direction] Move or hover slowly and lightly in a liquid or the air; drift: clouds floated across a brilliant blue sky
More example sentences
  • Usually it was the clouds floating slowly past the window that would catch my eye.
  • She watched as the white clouds slowly floated by in the sky and gave a sigh.
  • David ignored him and busied himself with the clouds floating slowly by.
hover, levitate, be suspended, hang, defy gravity
drift, glide, sail, slip, slide, waft, flow, stream, move, travel, be carried
2.1 (float about/around) (Of a rumour, idea, etc.) circulate: the notion was floating around Capitol Hill
More example sentences
  • A rumor is floating about that the businessman is getting ready to waste millions again in a futile attempt to become governor, but that's relevant only to the coyotes who will take his money.
  • ‘It is an idea that is floating about at the moment, but I wouldn't put it any stronger than that,’ he added.
  • A couple of hot rumors have been floating about involving Golden State.
2.2Move in a casual or leisurely way: Araminta floated down the stairs
More example sentences
  • She moved her wand toward the stairs, and Ron floated that way.
  • I floated down the stairs with the soft fabric of the dress swishing around my legs.
  • When she was finally ready, she walked gracefully down the stairs and floated toward the door.
2.3 [with object and adverbial of direction] (In sport) make (the ball) travel lightly and effortlessly through the air: he floated the kick into the net
More example sentences
  • With half-time approaching, Ovenden were awarded a free kick well outside the penalty area and Megson floated the ball over everyone into the net.
  • Yorke floats a ball into England's box which Lawrence heads over, though the goal was never in danger.
  • The ball is floated in to the box and Nesta heads clear.
3 [with object] Put forward (an idea) as a suggestion or test of reactions.
Example sentences
  • A similar idea was floated in March this year by Southampton Test MP Alan Whitehead following an energy summit held in the city last year.
  • He floated the idea of raising the amount of money taxpayers must earn before they're subjected to the top marginal tax rate.
  • The BBC report is amusing, because it floats the idea that maybe people should be charged for the bandwidth they use - hey, maybe metered internet time could be the future?
suggest, put forward, come up with, submit, raise, moot, propose, advance, offer, proffer, posit, present, table, test the popularity of
informal run something up the flagpole (to see who salutes)
3.1Offer the shares of (a company) for sale on the stock market for the first time.
Example sentences
  • He will need to muster all his not inconsiderable sales skills to help float the company at a time when stock markets are in the doldrums.
  • The company was floated on the Nasdaq stock market in November 1997.
  • A central part of the reform process was to privatize many of the nationalized industries through floating the companies on the stock market.
launch, get going, get off the ground, offer, sell, introduce, establish, set up, institute, promote
4(Of a currency) fluctuate freely in value in accordance with supply and demand in the financial markets: a policy of letting the pound float
More example sentences
  • The new system is similar to Singapore's managed ‘basket, band and crawl’ model in which currency floats within a set policy band.
  • But this is a free trade position, to say that currencies should float.
  • By default, the world's major currencies began floating.
4.1 [with object] Allow (a currency) to float.
Example sentences
  • It's not even clear if floating China's currency would result in a stronger yuan.
  • Indeed, if the currency were floated, it might well decline as Chinese convert their domestic currency holdings into dollars.
  • Uruguay floated its currency late last month following a run on banks and a plunge in foreign reserves.


1A thing that is buoyant in water, in particular:
1.1A small object attached to a fishing line to indicate by moving when a fish bites.
Example sentences
  • Eventually the many rings were threaded, the float attached, shotted and the hook tied on.
  • Personally, I get a lot of satisfaction out of making my own floats and catching fish using them.
  • Once the hard work is done it's easy to fish to a baited area from the bank or to sit in the boat and fish it with a float.
1.2A cork or buoy supporting the edge of a fishing net.
Example sentences
  • These weights have a hole or holes bored into them and help, with the aid of buoyant floats, keep the net vertical in the water and fished as a gill or seine net.
  • They use beam and otter trawls or fine filament nylon driftnets, a form of gear used in the open ocean, suspended in the water by floats like a curtain.
  • Through an elaborate maze of nets suspended by floats, fish are channelled into captivity.
1.3A light object held for support by a person learning to swim.
Example sentences
  • I must say I thoroughly enjoyed learning to swim on my back with one of those squeaky polystyrene float things.
  • Astronauts are dropped into the training pool wearing space suits, then loaded with weights and floats for buoyancy.
  • Edie gasped for breath, giving in to the shakes, hanging on to the float like it was her whole world.
1.4A hollow or inflated organ enabling an organism (such as the Portuguese man-of-war) to float in the water.
Example sentences
  • However, the Ediacaran genus Ovatoscutum looks very similar to the float of the living chondrophorine Velella.
  • The float of the Portuguese Man of War jellyfish acts as a sail which helps it move or swim in water.
  • The float has a pore at the bottom that emits gas and can be refilled with secretions produced by a special gland.
1.5A hollow structure fixed underneath an aircraft enabling it to take off and land on water.
Example sentences
  • At the same time another aircraft with floats fitted landed near the dinghy and picked up the crew and flew off.
  • The aircraft could be fitted with either land gear or floats and featured manually folding wings.
  • The planes could be equipped with either wheels or floats for both land and water landings, but only by replacing one type of gear with the other.
1.6A floating device on the surface of a liquid which forms part of a valve apparatus controlling flow in and out of the enclosing container, e.g. in a water cistern or a carburettor.
Example sentences
  • The most common type of bilge pump switch uses a pivoted float to sense water level.
  • I described the symptoms, and Arv said it could possibly be a blocked exhaust stock or a stuck carburetor float.
  • Mount the float valve in your reservoir of water at about the level you want the water (the float is adjustable so placement doesn't have to be perfect).
2British A small vehicle or cart, especially one powered by electricity.
Example sentences
  • Electric floats went further afield and petrol vans served outlying areas.
  • A milkman was kicked in the groin and hit over the head by a York taxi driver - for driving his float too slowly.
  • He helped her into his milk float and took her all the way home.
2.1A platform mounted on a truck and carrying a display in a procession: a carnival float
More example sentences
  • The sun also came out as the procession of floats wound its way to the carnival field and then paraded through the town on Saturday.
  • There will be 40 floats in tomorrow's procession, accompanied by marching bands, majorettes and cheerleaders.
  • A colourful procession of floats through the town was the beginning of a weekend's fun at Dartford's annual festival.
3British A sum of money used for change at the beginning of a period of trading in a shop or stall etc., or for minor expenditures.
Example sentences
  • But as he returned to the taxi, he saw a man trying to steal money from the cash float.
  • When the driver got out to adjust it, the group stole his till float containing £25 and slammed his hand in the driver's cab door.
  • Police are considering robbery as a possible motive because a float of hundreds of pounds was missing.
4A hand tool with a rectangular blade used for smoothing plaster.
Example sentences
  • I climbed the ladder with my float, trowel and plaster and reached upwards towards the missing section of my ceiling.
  • Cover the tiles with grout using a rubber-bottom float or a sponge and wipe on a diagonal.
  • Among the simplest is a somewhat rough but uniform surface achieved by tooling the finish coat with a sponge float or brush.
5chiefly North American A soft drink with a scoop of ice cream floating in it: ice-cream floats
More example sentences
  • Sometimes you'd be lucky enough to have money for an ice cream float or a soda pop.
  • Julie got thirsty so we went to the ice cream place for root beer floats, they have the cheapest beverages in the park.
  • Campbell says he also likes to get creative with tea, and adds it to ice cream and dessert drinks, like his tea float.
6(In critical path analysis) the period of time by which the duration of an activity may be extended without affecting the overall time for the process.
Example sentences
  • As long as a task does not slip past the amount of float time, it will not affect the overall process or project time.
  • An activity that has a total float equal to zero is said to be a ‘critical activity’.
  • The independent float of an activity is calculated assuming the worst circumstances.


float someone's boat

informal Appeal to or excite someone, especially sexually.
Example sentences
  • If that's what floats your boat, go for it, but it leads us nowhere fast.
  • But if shopping doesn't float your boat, there's some impressive architecture along this route.
  • Researching double-glazing or heating boilers may not float your boat but it should save you enough to make it worth your while.


Old English flotian (verb), of Germanic origin and related to fleet4, reinforced in Middle English by Old French floter, also from Germanic.

Words that rhyme with float

afloat, bloat, boat, capote, coat, connote, cote, dote, emote, gloat, goat, groat, misquote, moat, mote, note, oat, outvote, promote, quote, rote, shoat, smote, stoat, Succoth, table d'hôte, Terre Haute, throat, tote, vote, wrote

For editors and proofreaders

Line breaks: float

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