Definition of drift in English:



[no object]
  • 1Be carried slowly by a current of air or water.

    ‘the cabin cruiser started to drift downstream’
    figurative ‘excited voices drifted down the hall’
    • ‘Once past this section of white water we began to drift downstream and came to a stone bridge crossing the deep valley of the river, reminding me of a rainbow.’
    • ‘The Maritime and Coastguard Agency said the 170-metre semi-submersible barge had since drifted into Norwegian waters.’
    • ‘Aided by the swift current, we drifted quietly downstream watching the rich assortment of wildlife along the way.’
    • ‘As we drift into the current, things suddenly get very quiet.’
    • ‘During the mission, our unattended football rolled into the water and drifted downstream.’
    • ‘Wedge-tailed eagles drift in the air currents, and in the mornings the hills are alive with western grey kangaroos.’
    • ‘We drift with the current over one of his favourite yellow spots.’
    • ‘And the ocean currents tend to drift westwards on the northern side.’
    • ‘Perfect fly presentation is often ruined by drag - the current's unnatural tug on your fly as it drifts downstream - a problem the snake cast eliminates.’
    • ‘We got up each day, put our boats in the water, and drifted down the river.’
    • ‘As Tim and I drifted slowly downstream, we scrutinized every bird we saw.’
    • ‘I am looking forward to being in the open sea where I can use the sea anchor - a sort of parachute for water that ensures that you drift with the current, reducing the effect of the wind.’
    • ‘There was a particular spot that I loved, on the bridge over the river, where ghostly whirls of mist drifted lazily over the water's surface.’
    • ‘Within minutes the aromas of a three-course Thai meal cooked on the double gas burner drifted across the waters.’
    • ‘Drift-diving in Britain means that the divers will be drifting with a current.’
    • ‘The smaller ship began to drift with the current downstream.’
    • ‘It's not the first bit I've seen float by, but this one is drifting against the current.’
    • ‘It drifts with the currents and pulsates to maintain position at the proper depths.’
    • ‘One after another the tiny balls of bread fell, hit the water and drifted downstream.’
    • ‘There were lights of the fishermen out on the jetty beneath The Bluff - and there was a white shape drifting in the water close to the shore.’
    be carried, be carried along, be carried away, be borne, be wafted
    View synonyms
    1. 1.1with adverbial of direction Walk slowly, aimlessly, or casually.
      ‘people began to drift away’
      • ‘There already was not enough light and people were drifting away.’
      • ‘All week they didn't speak to each other while the others were about and they drifted off for walks on their own and Jed gave them plenty of opportunity to be together by leaving them behind a lot.’
      • ‘People applauded, held their prizes proudly to their chests and began to drift off home.’
      • ‘An unexpected monsoon shower delayed the proceedings, but everything started off with a bang after couples and groups began drifting in as the sky cleared.’
      • ‘He was 15 when the civil war ended, and a new and different kind of settler began to drift westward.’
      • ‘People were drifting in, and Sky News was on everywhere.’
      • ‘Finally, after 45 minutes, the audience now diminished as people drifted away, the machine spews out some outsize balls that bounce away on the wind.’
      • ‘Four hundred odd people drifted in and out last week, and during this crazy summer, it's shaping up to be a welcome oasis of calm.’
      • ‘The rebellion's leaders had been caught and swiftly brought to justice and the rioters began to drift back home to their apprenticeships and farms.’
      • ‘Then he moved around, drifting from place to place, trying to memorize the ships myriad of corridors and rooms.’
      • ‘Voices rose in an unhappy mutter, but the crowd began to drift away, and the sergeant walked over.’
      • ‘Even so, he strode to Lily's room, Sylvia drifting close behind.’
      • ‘The new trainees drifted in different directions as they left the landing strip.’
      • ‘Because they were civilians, their response to the order was neither prompt nor orderly, but the group did begin to drift that way.’
      • ‘Slowly, the crowds began to drift away, some back to town, others into the forest.’
      • ‘She drifted closer, wanting to read it but fearing what it would say.’
      • ‘There was only one other table in the restaurant when we first arrived, but as the evening progressed more people started drifting in.’
      • ‘Gradually though, people drifted away and we were left alone.’
      • ‘I felt pretty useless, and began to drift around aimlessly, asking if anyone needed help.’
    2. 1.2with adverbial Move passively, aimlessly, or involuntarily into a certain situation or condition.
      ‘I was drifting off to sleep’
      • ‘I slowly began to drift off to sleep, when the phone rang.’
      • ‘I began to drift in and out of consciousness and saw blue stars around my head.’
      • ‘Eventually, I started to ‘wise up’ and began to drift away from him.’
      • ‘Although crying feels oddly satisfying, to unleash your anger and sadness, I began to drift off slowly into sleep.’
      • ‘Everything slowly began to drift away but this time, instead of the nightmares the mysterious stranger that haunted my dreams greeted me.’
      • ‘They both went to their next classes, but the day drifted by slowly.’
      • ‘She held me closer as I began to drift slowly into sleep.’
      • ‘We have known each other for years but drifted apart when they moved out of our neighborhood.’
      • ‘She closed her eyes and slowly began to drift off to sleep.’
      • ‘He slid into the water deeper, slowly drifting off to sleep.’
      • ‘My head sunk slowly into the pillow, and I began to drift asleep.’
      • ‘Jamie had told him that often times patients in this condition would drift into a coma-like state.’
      • ‘She began to see blue and yellow dots, as she slowly began to drift out of consciousness.’
      • ‘I closed my eyes and slowly began drifting off to sleep, content that the candle would burn brightly one more day.’
      • ‘And so the friendship slowly began to drift apart.’
      • ‘As she sat with her hand cupping her chin, she wondered what was going to become of her and her father right before she drifted off into a dreamless sleep.’
      • ‘Slowly, the cat began to drift out of conciseness, not bothering to fight it.’
      • ‘Dominic slowly began to drift away from his drinking problem, though he didn't lose it completely.’
      • ‘Almost paradise, and all the bitterness that had been consuming my soul was slowly beginning to drift away.’
      • ‘The echo of a soft knock found its way to Rose's ears as she slowly drifted awake.’
      doze off, drop off, fall asleep, go to sleep
      wander, wander aimlessly, roam, rove, meander, stray, coast
      View synonyms
    3. 1.3 (of a person or their attention) digress or stray to another subject.
      ‘I noticed my audience's attention drifting’
      • ‘Your attention drifts away from the task at hand just as a car comes around the corner with its high beams on.’
      • ‘As soon as somebody starts trying to prove something to me, something happens; - my attention drifts off and I have to wait until they stop before I can turn back and carry on the conversation.’
      • ‘The latter is a typical song the band chooses to jam out live, but it was obvious much of the audience's attention was drifting after the first 10 minutes.’
      • ‘Her mind slowly began to drift away from Rosetta, filling itself with questions.’
      • ‘When no longer captivated by what's on stage, the mind drifts involuntarily and temptation inevitably sets in to peek at your timepiece.’
      • ‘Theo slowly began to drift off into another daydream about the life she wished she could have, the life of a popular girl that didn't have a care in the world.’
      • ‘She fidgeted, her mind drifting back to her current dilemma.’
      • ‘His mind drifted away from the situation at hand as he allowed himself to feel the extent of her devotion.’
      • ‘As they walked, their thoughts drifted back to Buddy.’
      • ‘She paused and glanced at me as though to check that my attention hadn't drifted again.’
      • ‘Why can't I hold your attention anymore, you're always drifting off on me.’
      • ‘The conversation drifted as they walked and shared the events of the day.’
      • ‘A musician… my mind began to drift, or was it those beautiful blue eyes staring at me.’
      • ‘After a while, the boys drifted from the subject of math and started talking about other things.’
      • ‘When Fredi finally hung up she noticed that Kelly's attention had drifted, so she took this moment to watch her lover.’
      • ‘My sentence was way too long for him and his attention had drifted to a potential fight that was about to ensue near the entrance.’
      • ‘Experts are worried that attention would drift away from Asia where the virus is endemic.’
      • ‘Her eyes slid closed and her mind began to drift outside of the walls.’
      • ‘I once again drifted off into a different plane, not paying attention to what was happening around me, never mind on the tennis court.’
      • ‘You could understand what kinds of offers motivate people, figure out why their attention drifts from one site to another, and anticipate what site they might go to next.’
      stray, digress, depart, diverge, veer, swerve, deviate, get sidetracked
      View synonyms
  • 2(especially of snow or leaves) be blown into heaps by the wind.

    ‘fallen leaves start to drift in the gutters’
    • ‘Some roads in the south-east of Scotland were blocked as snow drifted.’
    • ‘And we got to the next exit down the road here and we went to pull off, and the snow had drifted up, and we were stranded there.’
    • ‘Snow drifted lazily about us, and we were both coated in the white powder.’
    • ‘Outside, snow is drifting across the stable-yard.’
    • ‘Meanwhile, skiers are looking with envy at the fresh snow which is still drifting in Athens.’
    • ‘Woke up this morning and there was snow drifting a meter high out on the deck and in the garden, burying my optimistic seeds.’
    • ‘Fences placed above the starting zone can prevent snow from drifting into leeward basins, thus reducing drift loading.’
    • ‘I stare at the snow drifting outside my window, at the nearly deserted street below, trying not to think about anything.’
    • ‘Fairly flying, he followed the fence along, watching for a place where the snow had drifted up high enough that he could step over the wires.’
    • ‘As the game kicked off, winter threatened to intervene as snow drifted across the ground but fortunately it remained light.’
    • ‘The snow had drifted on the ground, swelling up against trunks and rocks, and parchment thin beside the water.’
    • ‘He turned the vehicle onto a dirt road drifted over with snow.’
    • ‘It probably came because of the snow drifting past her window, and not out of his notice of anything wrong.’
    • ‘Snow had already drifted up on Old Hank's truck and the white and red pickup he'd told her about was nearly covered.’
    • ‘Unless he organized his thoughts he would die here in the nighttime, the snow would drift over his body and only the dogs would know where to find him.’
    • ‘The snow drifted around them, making the entire scene look unreal.’
    • ‘Up to five inches of snow, drifting in the gale-force winds, was being forecast overnight along the East Coast.’
    • ‘Morning sun glared off snow drifted up to a metre against the walls in places.’
    • ‘I traipsed outside and cleared out about a foot of snow that had drifted into the dish.’
    • ‘When it came to snow, it wasn't usually too bad if it just fell quietly without any wind behind it because, as everyone knows, it is the wind that causes snow to drift.’
    pile up, bank up, heap up, accumulate, gather, form drifts, form heaps, amass
    View synonyms


  • 1in singular A continuous slow movement from one place to another.

    ‘there was a drift to the towns’
    • ‘His book provided no mechanism whereby the drift of continents could come about.’
    • ‘And within Australia there's still a steady drift north.’
    • ‘This drift of players from second division Stepps to top side Western has also included defender Kenny Miller, who is also a member of the first team squad.’
    • ‘It was, however, growing around this time - from a figure perhaps as low as 1,600 in 1550-due mainly to a drift from the countryside to the town.’
    • ‘Then as transport became more available there was a gradual drift to country schools on the periphery of the town.’
    • ‘The drift of the continents had sealed off the waters of the far arctic, as the northern margins of Asia and North America crowded together.’
    • ‘The steady drift of learners from rural to urban areas has shifted the demand for teachers since the last provisioning exercise six years ago.’
    • ‘The task is not an easy one, for the population drift to the cities, especially among young people, continues unabated.’
    • ‘Yet, in spite of historiographical shifts, and the steady drift of population to the cities, pastoral Australia retains a treasured place in the national imagination.’
    • ‘There is also evidence of a drift towards the towns and cities where the bulk of the recent tourism investment has taken place, both in accommodation and facilities.’
    • ‘Malton appointed a town centre manager and set out to raise the profile of its shopping centre two years ago because of an alarming drift of customers to supermarkets outside Scarborough and York.’
    • ‘The second half is a mellow drift through a tunnel of cottonwood trees.’
    • ‘The scheme is also regarded as a way of boosting town centre trade, by helping to halt the drift of shoppers to out-of-town retail centres, which often offer free or cheap parking.’
    • ‘The director's commentary explains that in the space scene, no cuts could be made without ruining the continuous drift of the backdrop.’
    • ‘Over the past 30 years it has been used to reflect laser pulses back to observatories on Earth, making it possible to monitor the slow drift of the Moon away from our planet.’
    • ‘Contrasting the abruptness of earthquakes is the slow drift of tectonic plates.’
    • ‘Nevertheless, it is clear that it is quite insufficient to keep up the farm population, stop the drift to the towns and the abandonment of marginal farms.’
    • ‘That drift of dynastic Egypt from Africa has now dramatically slowed.’
    • ‘The project has slowed down the drift toward the cities.’
    • ‘The item on the finding in southern Scotland of the solitary wasp illustrates how climate change may be inducing a northward drift of some species of insects.’
    movement, shift, flow, transfer, transferral, relocation, gravitation
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    1. 1.1mass 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’
      • ‘I let the canoe drift with the current, trailing my paddle in the mocha-colored water.’
      • ‘In addition, compensation for wind drift based on visual cues on the ground becomes more difficult with increasing altitude.’
      • ‘Significant wind drift can occur, and it's difficult to detect it at night.’
      • ‘Wind drift is a major factor and little appreciated.’
      • ‘I felt my copilot initially increase right rudder, trying to stop the aircraft's left drift.’
      • ‘They require continuous updates from the visual sense to correct the drift errors in the other four inputs.’
      • ‘If you have an electric outboard available, this too can be used to slow down a drift.’
      • ‘By the time the plane and its crew reached the European coast, they had adjusted course to compensate for a 15-mile drift to the right.’
      • ‘It was still flat calm as I rowed out to fish on the drift, using my bank outfit.’
      • ‘We've got computer projections of drift according to the weather and charts which give us an approximation of survival times.’
      • ‘He said that he had detected forward drift and had put in what he perceived as enough aft cyclic to correct the problem, but the drift had continued.’
      • ‘He lost his ability to mentally calculate fuel loads and wind drift while me and my drugs stayed the course.’
      • ‘The speed of the craft varied, from a slow drift, to a speed so great that it is difficult to explain how this speed was achieved.’
      • ‘For this reason, all match ammunition is subsonic to reduce wind drift.’
      deviation, digression, veering, straying
      View synonyms
    2. 1.2 A steady movement or development from one thing towards another that is perceived as unwelcome.
      ‘the drift towards a more repressive style of policing’
      • ‘With uncanny resemblance to his own political career, Napoleon ensured that the drift from left to right continued apace.’
      • ‘In commenting, therefore, on a social drift in democracy, my first appeal is for an understanding of the complexity of the subject.’
      • ‘Nevertheless, the drift toward protectionism did contribute to a new international atmosphere of conflict and tension.’
      • ‘In the 1980s and 1990s we were ill at ease and unable to get a hold on things as we faced a big black hole and a slow drift to oblivion.’
      • ‘He has warned ministers to guard against a drift towards ‘a surveillance society’.’
      • ‘All I will say is that there has been a gradual drift in the legal position over the years as views have tended to move towards the liberal, and that this slow and creeping evolution is likely to continue.’
      • ‘The only way for Democrats to reverse the slow rightward drift in constitutional law is by winning elections.’
      • ‘The drift is towards global business and financial consolidation.’
      • ‘The '90s brought a slow drift from the arms of the Church, as secular materialism took hold.’
      • ‘However, there is now a substantial body of opinion that the party needs to correct a drift to the left if it is to challenge the two main parties.’
      • ‘Oriented north toward the small town of Limbo, he meticulously fights off the slow drift to complacency within his platoon.’
      • ‘The drift has shrunk the tax base and foisted ever-higher bills on citizens already paying the highest council tax in Scotland.’
      • ‘The cartel then began a long drift towards the centre.’
      • ‘This has resulted in a loss of focus and a drift towards multiple and contradictory objectives.’
      • ‘The drift towards fiction has its compensations.’
      • ‘Britain can build bridges - and avoid a drift to war’
      • ‘The drift will further accelerate the decline of the public system.’
      • ‘His slow drift down in the polls might now accelerate.’
      • ‘If the drift downwards continues there would be a substantial erosion of pension funds in Ireland, he said.’
      • ‘He worries also about the slow drift of journalism out of the public consciousness.’
    3. 1.3mass noun A state of inaction or indecision.
      ‘after so much drift, any expression of enthusiasm is welcome’
      • ‘Cohabitation is a continuing process of drift, lacking a sense of belonging.’
      • ‘Ministers say they want to ‘see an end to the drift and lack of mission in further education and training’ and plan to introduce a raft of new measures to raise standards.’
      • ‘After 10 years of indecision and drift, Britain cannot remain on hold for another five years.’
      • ‘The parliamentary election was followed by three months of inactivity and drift in the summer of 1990.’
    4. 1.4Motorsports A controlled skid, used in taking bends at high speeds.
      • ‘The car surges off the line and, sure enough, begins a slow drift to the left out of the well-defined groove.’
      • ‘To perform a drift you require a certain amount of instinct and a great deal of practice.’
      • ‘Instead of a drifter causing a drift and then countering to straighten out, he will instead over-counter so his car goes into another drift.’
  • 2in 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 drift’
    ‘he didn't understand much Greek, but he got her drift’
    • ‘Brooke asked in reply to his sudden movement; could she not catch the drift?’
    • ‘I want to put a little humor in this one, but I have no sense of humor whatsoever, so… you get the drift.’
    • ‘To continue the debate, I feel the drift of this conversation is that Ken has the old world traditional values at heart and represents the majority.’
    • ‘It's a long time since I read it, but that seemed to be the general drift.’
    • ‘People who know me will know the general drift of my thoughts and the intensity of my feelings on disasters, whether they be personal, natural or man-made.’
    • ‘She doesn't quote the great biblical injunction ‘to do justice but to love mercy’, but that is the general drift.’
    • ‘He looked across at Gianni, who seemed to be getting the drift of the conversation.’
    • ‘He didn't mention 45-year-olds but I think I got his drift.’
    • ‘Yet, this apart, you can see the drift of the argument.’
    • ‘Well, I get the general drift of it - it has some familiar themes - but some references are puzzling.’
    • ‘You get the general drift of all that, don't you?’
    • ‘By the time she comes back we forget what we were discussing and the drift of the conversation is lost.’
    • ‘I'm not too sure you got the drift of the Governor General's dilemma.’
    • ‘Eric was rapidly getting the drift of the conversation and trying to phrase a polite refusal in his mind.’
    • ‘No doubt there are lots more but you get the drift.’
    • ‘And that message - or at least its general drift - has been delivered in musicals for a good long time.’
    • ‘I suspect many posters on this board are deliberately misunderstanding the general drift of the main article.’
    • ‘It wasn't noticeable, but I think he got my drift and put his arm around me.’
    • ‘He got my drift and went to sit on a beanbag chair.’
    • ‘Some experienced industry observers disagree with the drift of this argument.’
    gist, essence, core, meaning, sense, thesis, substance, significance, signification
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  • 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’
    • ‘He rolled up his sleeve and reached into the drift, seconds later he produced a powdery pooch.’
    • ‘The snow fell slowly and it piled into drifts everywhere, sparkling in the grey mist that hung low to the ground.’
    • ‘The wind howled behind them and swept a drift of snow through the doorway with them.’
    • ‘Fierce blizzards could blow in suddenly, bringing heavy snow that strong winds heaped into deep drifts.’
    • ‘I crouched at the border of field and forest, hidden behind the snow-dusted skeleton of a bush and a drift banked against a fallen trunk.’
    • ‘Out of the office window I see snow, thick drifts bearing the marks of a brave skier gliding down.’
    • ‘The structure rested next to a steep slope, and snow was piled in thick drifts around it.’
    • ‘This evening, trudging along through the drifts of ripped leaves and shed blossom I could smell smoke on the air.’
    • ‘We wanted to dive into the massive drifts of drying leaves, blown or swept high against walls and in gutters.’
    • ‘I like trudging up the path through the drifts of dead leaves, too.’
    • ‘The only bonus of my mistake was that the freezing air no longer seemed as cold as it had earlier, when I eventually crunched my way home through thigh-high drifts of snow, beneath a sky ablaze with the northern lights.’
    • ‘For the first week, Emma paced at night and watched a late snow curl in drifts around the mailbox at the corner and the lamppost beneath her window.’
    • ‘The region lacks prominent landmarks, and the raised beaches are sandy and subject to wind erosion and sand drift.’
    • ‘Along the edge of the lawn drifts and heaps of yellow leaves caught the first light, looking for all the world as if they'd grown there overnight.’
    • ‘For the first time in what seemed like years I heard actual rain drumming against the roof and washing snow from the streets and reducing drifts to icy piles of dirty slush.’
    • ‘The wind picks up, stirring the drifts until the snow looks like it's falling upward.’
    • ‘The ground was covered with melting snow, drifts and banks still sat on the sidewalk covering the sign posts more than half-way high.’
    • ‘They had, then, to anchor the pylons supporting the cables on rocks frozen under deep drifts of snow, working in freezing temperatures, buffeted by needle sharp winds.’
    • ‘When I went for my walk this afternoon there was still no sign of snow, though the drifts of fallen May blossom along the hedge bottoms kept my mind on the topic.’
    • ‘I pulled my cloak a bit tighter as a gust of wind whipped powder snow from a nearby drift and swirled it around us in a chill flurry.’
    pile, heap, bank, mound, mass, accumulation, dune, ridge
    View synonyms
    1. 3.1Geology mass noun Glacial and fluvioglacial deposits left by retreating ice sheets.
      • ‘It can readily be modelled as a body of low density representing a valley fill of glacial drift.’
      • ‘Because early geologists did not find recent glacial drift in the region, it became known as the Driftless Area.’
      • ‘Furthermore, it is not always clear whether fossils from a given locality are from in situ rocks or from spoil or clasts in glacial drift.’
      • ‘The rugged driftless area got its name because of early geologists' inability to find evidence of glacial drift.’
      • ‘Much of their ground stone came from either glacial drift or outcrops of Dakota sandstone, both sources occurring to the east of the site.’
    2. 3.2 A large spread of flowering plants growing together.
      ‘a drift of daffodils’
      • ‘Below the trailing sweeps, violets and daffodils and drifts of yellow, blue and white crocus came forth in Spring and later tulips, grape hyacinth and other like bulbs kept the willow company.’
      • ‘The sun illuminated a drift of orange-flowered trees on the far ridge.’
      • ‘I can visualize a wide flower bed planted with C. rosea in drifts, mixed with a host of other colors for a more casual garden look.’
      • ‘Next day, about noon, our rail pass took us through flat countryside, the low fields broken by stands of trees and drifts of yellow broom along the tracks, to Norwich.’
      • ‘Since it self-seeds, just a few plants will eventually give rise to a nice drift.’
      • ‘Some of the flowers are in drifts that spill down the steep slopes; others stand in large beds.’
      • ‘Like many other plants, the Pokers are best grown in large drifts if you can possibly afford the space.’
      • ‘I found it hard to appreciate the differences between the many varieties, so I gave up and simply enjoyed the spectacle of huge drifts of green and white flowers indoors, in the centre of London!’
      • ‘Lady Rachel also injected a touch of informality to the somewhat formal layout by planting drifts of daffodils and allowing them to naturalise in the long grass.’
      • ‘In place of lawn, Stratton planted native creeping grass; drifts of ‘Thalia’ daffodil bloom beneath the oaks.’
      • ‘It is best grown in drifts in a semi-shaded spot beneath trees and shrubs and a fertile, well-drained soil is essential.’
      • ‘Plant in clusters or drifts, by plant type, or by flower and foliage color.’
      • ‘Their choice has the backing of Cumbria Tourist Board, which has relaunched its daffodil telephone hotline to satisfy people's desire to see great drifts of daffodils growing wild in the Lakes.’
      • ‘They make an excellent ground cover for shady areas of the garden and give a wonderful show when grouped together in large drifts.’
  • 4Mining
    A horizontal or inclined passage following a mineral vein or coal seam.

    ‘the drift led to another smaller ore chamber’
    • ‘From this level a number of drifts and underground shafts worked the vein at levels from the Five Yard Limestone.’
    • ‘We explored the areas that were not being mined, including miles of old abandoned drifts and stopes.’
    • ‘In subsurface ore mining, headings are driven into new ground, level drifts follow the ore, level crosscuts connect drifts, and vertical or inclined raises connect the workings from level to level.’
    • ‘The workings consist of three adits with 3,300 feet of drifts, raises, and crosscuts.’
    • ‘In recent years more of these nodules have been collected from the mine dump and a drift in the mine.’
  • 5British historical An act of driving cattle or sheep.

    • ‘It was a cattle drift between the Table Valley settlement and the interior.’
    1. 5.1 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.

    • ‘At about 07:30, just after the troops had crossed the drift, they formed a hollow square formation comprising 4156 whites and 1152 blacks.’
    • ‘Namibia Construction is building an 800 metre bridge which will elevate the road above the two drifts that have caused wash-outs in past rainy seasons.’
    • ‘All was quiet for half an hour, till we crossed the drift.’
    crossing place, crossing, causeway
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Phrasal Verbs

  • drift apart

    • (of two or more people) gradually become less intimate or friendly.

      ‘Lewis and his father drifted apart’
      • ‘In an exclusive interview, the Afghan President Hamid Karzai shows us what's making America's allies drift apart.’
      • ‘Twenty-five years later, the three friends have drifted apart.’
      • ‘Over the years, however, they drifted apart.’
      • ‘They demonstrate just how far the old allies have drifted apart.’
      • ‘Most of us, even with every communication option possible, drift apart from friends.’
      • ‘The couple, expecting their decree nisi next month, have drifted apart in recent months.’
      • ‘I don't know what happened, I guess in the long trek through my ever changing moods we sort of drifted apart.’
      • ‘They graduated in 1948, then quickly drifted apart.’
      • ‘There is no grim diagnosis of their relationship, no claim they had drifted apart, no mention of divorce.’
      • ‘They may even lead to the couple drifting apart.’


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 drift (sense 6 of the noun)) South African Dutch drift ‘ford’; related to drive.