1be carried slowly by a current of air or water:the cabin cruiser started to drift downstream figurativeexcited voices drifted down the hall
[with adverbial of direction] walk slowly, aimlessly, or casually:people began to drift away
[with adverbial] move passively, aimlessly, or involuntarily into a certain situation or condition:I was drifting off to sleep
(of a person or their attention) digress or stray to another subject:I noticed my audience’s attention drifting
2(especially of snow or leaves) be blown into heaps by the wind:fallen leaves start to drift in the gutters (as adjective drifting)long stretches of drifting snow
1 [in singular] a continuous slow movement from one place to another:there was a drift to the towns
[mass noun] the deviation of a vessel, aircraft, or projectile from its intended or expected course as the result of currents or winds:the pilot had not noticed any appreciable drift
a steady movement or development from one thing towards another that is perceived as unwelcome:the drift towards a more repressive style of policing
[mass noun] a state of inaction or indecision:after so much drift, any expression of enthusiasm is welcome
Motor Racing a controlled skid, used in taking bends at high speeds.
2 [in singular] the general intention or meaning of an argument or someone’s remarks:maybe I’m too close to the forest to see the trees, if you catch my drifthe didn’t understand much Greek, but he got her drift
3a large mass of snow, leaves, or other material piled up or carried along by the wind:four sheep were dug out of the drift
[mass noun] Geology glacial and fluvioglacial deposits left by retreating ice sheets.
a large spread of flowering plants growing together:a drift of daffodils
4 Mining a horizontal or inclined passage following a mineral vein or coal seam:the drift led to another smaller ore chamber
5British historical an act of driving cattle or sheep.
an act of herding cattle within a forest to a particular place on an appointed day in order to determine ownership or to levy fines.
6South African a ford.
(of two or more people) gradually become less intimate or friendly:Lewis and his father drifted apart
adjective (driftier, driftiest)
Middle English (in the sense 'mass of snow, leaves, etc.'): originally from Old Norse drift 'snowdrift, something driven'; in later use from Middle Dutch drift 'course, current', and (in sense 6 of the noun) South African Dutch drift 'ford'; related to drive