I. noun Etymology: Middle English; akin to Old English drīfan to drive — more at drive Date: 14th century 1. a. the act of driving something along b. the flow or the velocity of the current of a river or ocean stream 2. something driven, propelled, or urged along or drawn together in a clump by or as if by a natural agency: as a. wind-driven snow, rain, cloud, dust, or smoke usually at or near the ground surface b. (1) a mass of matter (as sand) deposited together by or as if by wind or water (2) a helter-skelter accumulation c. drove, flock d. something (as driftwood) washed ashore e. rock debris deposited by natural agents; specifically a deposit of clay, sand, gravel, and boulders transported by a glacier or by running water from a glacier 3. a. a general underlying design or tendency <
perceiving the drift of the government's policies
b. the underlying meaning, import, or purport of what is spoken or written <
the drift of a conversation
4. something (as a tool) driven down upon or forced into a body 5. the motion or action of drifting especially spatially and usually under external influence: as a. the lateral motion of an aircraft due to air currents b. an easy moderate more or less steady flow or sweep along a spatial course c. a gradual shift in attitude, opinion, or position d. an aimless course; especially a foregoing of any attempt at direction or control e. a deviation from a true reproduction, representation, or reading; especially a gradual change in the zero reading of an instrument or in any quantitative characteristic that is supposed to remain constant 6. a. a nearly horizontal mine passageway driven on or parallel to the course of a vein or rock stratum b. a small crosscut in a mine connecting two larger tunnels 7. a. an assumed trend toward a general change in the structure of a language over a period of time b. genetic drift 8. a mass of planted flowers Synonyms: see tendencydrifty adjective II. verb Date: circa 1600 intransitive verb 1. a. to become driven or carried along (as by a current of water, wind, or air) <
a balloon drifting in the wind
b. to move or float smoothly and effortlessly 2. a. to move along a line of least resistance b. to move in a random or casual way c. to become carried along subject to no guidance or control <
the talk drifted from topic to topic
3. a. to accumulate in a mass or become piled up in heaps by wind or water <
drifting snow
b. to become covered with a drift 4. to vary or deviate from a set course or adjustment transitive verb 1. a. to cause to be driven in a current b. West to drive (livestock) slowly especially to allow grazing 2. a. to pile in heaps b. to cover with drifts • driftingly adverb

New Collegiate Dictionary. 2001.

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