Definition of drone in English:



[no object]
  • 1Make a continuous low humming sound.

    ‘in the far distance a machine droned’
    • ‘His voice droned and buzzed in Sean's ears like a hovering bee, more so today than any other day.’
    • ‘The low, humming buzz from the many computer screens droned constantly on.’
    • ‘It was cold and hard against my ear, but the dial tone droned on clearly.’
    • ‘He had heard that Mileson was very hands-on but still couldn't believe his eyes during an early team talk as the sound of a vacuum cleaner droned in the background.’
    • ‘The dull thump of the bass beat of some unknown song droned on, providing a never-ending soundtrack to the party.’
    • ‘The cicadas droned all the way home, joined by grasshoppers who sounded like gadgets of gears and springs.’
    • ‘The television drones on, white noise in the back of my feverish mind.’
    • ‘The air conditioner droned in that maddening old machine way, but it was too hot to not have the thing on.’
    • ‘Then I stopped the mower, and the cicadas droned on, on, on.’
    • ‘The monotonous hum of the mining drill droned on.’
    hum, buzz, whir, vibrate, murmur, rumble, purr, hiss, whisper, sigh
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    1. 1.1 Speak tediously in a dull monotonous tone.
      ‘he reached for another beer while Jim droned on’
      • ‘Convinced that she was indeed taking notes, Mr. Hawthorn continued droning on about the Samurai warriors.’
      • ‘‘Hello, my dear,’ she droned sweetly with a low hiss.’
      • ‘‘He droned on and on, frequently mentioning how much better the candidates would sound the more we drank,’ a witness told us.’
      • ‘In fact, most serious energy enthusiasts are keen to distance themselves from those wacky New Age types who drone on about our energy fields being affected by karmic laws.’
      • ‘Mrs. Flaunders sends her a nasty look and continues droning on.’
      • ‘I rolled my eyes as Clarissa continued to drone on.’
      • ‘The veteran hardliner has been droning on about her political burnout for years, and has also long had to live with open speculation that her husband is an intelligence agent on the payroll of the French government.’
      • ‘The voice of the teacher droned on monotonously about some mathematical formula, but the normally attentive teenager had other things on his mind.’
      • ‘As Mr Brown droned on and on, delivering possibly the dullest speech of his life, she fell asleep.’
      • ‘He droned on and on about some friend of his sister's who he saw last Christmas and who looked exactly the same after ten years of not seeing her.’
      • ‘They had begged, pleaded, droned on and on until in the end I gave in.’
      • ‘‘O.K., one espresso ’, Keagan droned, shuffling over to the cappuccino machine.’
      • ‘Most people on the shuttle droned in monotonous tones about subjects so boring it should be a criminal offense to talk about, and the employees were ever cheerful in words, but in expression they belonged in the mental institution.’
      • ‘As Jack continued on droning about how Chin dislike anime, Zack's head was swarming with questions & incredulity.’
      • ‘Patrick continued to drone on, and had not spotted them.’
      • ‘Thank goodness blogs hadn't really taken off five years ago, otherwise dreary people would have been droning on and on about how the arrival of the year 2000 wasn't actually the start of the new Millennium after all.’
      • ‘Throughout the entire class I fought to keep myself awake as the teacher droned on in monotone.’
      • ‘Then he droned on for an hour, so softly I could hardly hear a word over the post-dinner chitchat.’
      • ‘The foreman on that building site was approached last week about it and I will continue to drone on about it until is has been sorted.’
      • ‘How else can they drone on about the same boring subject continuously?’
      speak boringly, speak monotonously, go on and on, talk interminably
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    2. 1.2with adverbial of direction Move with a continuous humming sound.
      ‘traffic droned up and down the street’
      • ‘There are bumble bees buzzing and droning around my spring flowers.’
      • ‘Heading for Utah Beach, Jack, aboard water barge LBW in the 34th Flotilla, heard the buzz of low flying Dakotas as they droned in from the sea towing their camouflaged gliders.’


  • 1A continuous low humming sound.

    ‘he nodded off to the drone of the car engine’
    • ‘Well, no sounds today, of course, as whoever it is must be at work, so the only sound from this house is the endless drone of daytime TV, which I have spent much of the day summoning up the energy to turn off.’
    • ‘Noises such as the drone of cicadas, the crackling of branches, flies buzzing, and the calls of birds had drowned out in her thoughts.’
    • ‘In the background, cameras whirred like demented bluebottles, adding their drone to the low buzz of conversation.’
    • ‘Across the Channel the night thundered with the drone of 1,700 planes.’
    • ‘The silence outside. Living so close to Kennedy Airport, the sound of planes getting ready to land is a constant drone throughout the day.’
    • ‘My brother hummed turbine noises, but the drone of thunder muted him.’
    • ‘Masses of mankind arose from inexpensive seating, emitting a drone of noise, noises, actually, as small groups of people conversed about a number of subjects.’
    • ‘I punched in Anna's phone number, and the drone of the ringing was putting me to sleep, it was 10: 30 pm already.’
    • ‘Even when warm and cruising on the motorway it gives off a drone, and tyre noise also intrudes.’
    • ‘Tobias couldn't hear himself scream over the drone of planes and noise of the explosions rattling the earth all around him.’
    • ‘Colonel Donovan could hear the resonating booms above the noisy drone of the plane's engine.’
    • ‘The marching of our feet rings out in unison, an endless drone accompanied by the clattering hooves of the knights' horses.’
    • ‘We were silent for a few moments, the drone of the lesson buzzing like a fly in my ears.’
    • ‘As she walked along the streets of Manhattan, the consistent drone of the cars fading into the background, she began to wonder about her going to New York in the first place.’
    • ‘Gliders and microlights have replaced wartime bombers at Rufforth Airfield, and they fly over a York very different to that which once echoed to the drone of the Halifax engines.’
    • ‘‘There's something you want to say,’ he said, studying her complacent gaze as the even drone of the moving car overtook her senses.’
    • ‘Occupying every single empty seat in sight, the crowd's continuous drone echoed within the tall tent.’
    • ‘The drone begins to sound similar to a vacuum cleaner sucking up all the surrounding life.’
    • ‘And the thunder-like drone of its eight engines strikes fear into troops below.’
    • ‘Both drones and noise are essential elements in music.’
    hum, buzz, whir, whirring, vibration, murmur, murmuring, purr, purring, hiss, hissing, whisper, whispering, sigh
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    1. 1.1informal A monotonous speech.
      ‘only twenty minutes of the hour-long drone had passed’
      • ‘She looked at it now, while she tuned out the monotonous drone of her teacher's ramblings.’
      • ‘Zac talked in a monotonous drone about the hidden treasures of Egypt, the esoteric wisdom that Aristotle stole, or was it Plato, and then the Egyptians forgot everything.’
      • ‘Viceroy's voice was still a monotonous drone, and I wanted to slap him just to see that he could still talk and/or yell with emotion.’
      • ‘Very few listened to the monotonous drone of the teacher as he explained proofs and parabolas.’
      • ‘Isabella listened to the drone of his monotonous voice, and did as he said.’
      • ‘This great change manifested itself in a sudden tiredness and slight nausea as the speaker's monotonous drone confirmed exactly the opposite.’
      • ‘So when I reach my classroom, I listen to the monotonous drone of the teacher.’
      tonelessness, flatness, lack of inflection
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  • 2A continuous musical note of low pitch.

    ‘the drone rose by a third to A’
    • ‘While Doria and Denardo clearly embrace the primal power of the drone, their sound is loud but not dissonant or cacophonous, and is seldom if ever grating but instead clean.’
    • ‘The first thing I heard when I put in this CD and pressed ‘Play’ was a weird drone that sounded more like an air raid than anything else my fatigued brain could think of.’
    • ‘Of its sixteen tracks, about seven are brief spectral drones, dark, nocturnal segues to the more fully developed pieces.’
    • ‘Hissing drones and cymbal crashes sweep away any memory of the former's dulcet overtones.’
    • ‘The first track starts sort of clean and minimal and then descends into chaos - pretty soon you're swimming in bloodcurdling squeals and distorted drones as waves of digital noise wash over you.’
    • ‘As the track moves along, the static, rumbles, guitar notes, and drones all mix together, with the drone slowly building and dominating the proceedings.’
    • ‘The sounds become electronic drones, otherworldly howls, pulverizing static, and then are melded into harsh industrial soundscapes.’
    • ‘Thus the music feels bounded by the drone, that the drone is the undulating surface of a musical object.’
    • ‘Track two of this CD starts with a low drone and the sound of rain falling gently.’
    • ‘The other synth sounds are drones and squiggles.’
    • ‘In that drone Harley heard an echo of the blues, but he also heard something deeper.’
    • ‘The melodies are almost invariably composed with buzzing, pleasantly grating synthesizer drones.’
    • ‘On a personal note, several of my most powerful dreams have involved a rising drone or chanting sound.’
    • ‘For example, you can select a small portion of a steady-state sound such as a drone or a gong roll.’
    • ‘The former track is comprised almost entirely of bass-heavy drones and pulsating synth waves, slow echoes fading into the ether.’
    • ‘It doesn't help that the musical backing is a five-minute drone of grating computerized noise.’
    • ‘Finally, her right hand slowed and then stopped, although her left hand continued the drone for a few notes before it, too fell still.’
    • ‘There are a lot of echoes, for instance, and these either stretch the small metallic sounds out into drones or create sharp, stuttering rhythms.’
    • ‘As I get older and my tinnitus removes the top-end of music, I feel less inclined towards the Bass and Drums and more drawn towards drones and defined sounds.’
    • ‘Up to four unstopped strings, called bourdons, sound drones.’
    hum, drone, singing, note
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    1. 2.1 A musical instrument, or part of one, sounding a continuous note of low pitch, in particular (also drone pipe) a pipe in a bagpipe or (also drone string) a string in an instrument such as a hurdy-gurdy or a sitar.
      • ‘There are two components other than the bag which set the Bagpipes from other instruments, the reed chanter and the drone pipes.’
      • ‘Move interstate but always have it in the back of your mind to return one day, just to see if New Editions Bookshop is still there and to lay a drone pipe atop his grave.’
      • ‘The poem ‘Saxophone’ repeats the word money in almost every line, every phrase, until it becomes a drone string on a banjo, a bass note that's always there.’
      • ‘It provided a tone that was rich with upper-end harmonics and a full bass from the drone strings.’
  • 3A male bee in a colony of social bees, which does no work but can fertilize a queen.

    • ‘Young men buzzed around her like drones to their queen bee.’
    • ‘There are only 100 or so males, or drones, per hive.’
    • ‘In nature, a queen bee will mate with as many as 20 drones.’
    • ‘It may well be a Hornet based on the size, they come in at 1.5 inches and at this time of year the new generation of Queens and drones mate before the queens seek nest sites, so they may well be out and about.’
    • ‘Furthermore, there are never that many drones in a colony, as they do not contribute to providing food.’
    • ‘Even though no worker ever got sick (since no actual parasite is involved), the colony still lost at least half its normal numbers of daughter queens and drones.’
    • ‘Whilst most animals, including humans, inherit one set of chromosomes from their mother, and a matching set from their father, male bee drones get by on one set alone.’
    • ‘Under natural conditions a queen mates with several drones.’
    • ‘Only workers perform this behavior; in our experiment, drones actively avoided heated hive regions.’
    • ‘He explained that a hive of bees consists of a queen bee, a few hundred drone bees and the remainder are workers.’
    • ‘For those who might not know, drones cannot sting, but, of course most people are not aware of this fact; and anyway how could you tell whether a bee was a drone or not in a darkened cinema?’
    • ‘You also have the drone bee that doesn't do anything except fertilise the young queens.’
    • ‘Each hive, enclosing the colony or swarm of bees, is a family unit and consists of a laying queen, a few drones, and several thousand worker bees.’
    • ‘A single hive might contain as many as 60,000 individuals, yet every bee knows its role: Workers attend to housekeeping tasks, while the queen and drones take care of reproduction.’
    • ‘Africanized queens are free to mate with European drones, and perhaps this has resulted in a dilution of the Africanized gene pool.’
    • ‘According to scientific descriptions, a honeybee colony consists of one queen, several thousand worker bees, and at certain times of the year, a few to several thousand drones, or male bees.’
    • ‘The queen bee is serviced by her male drones, and then she kills them off one by one.’
    • ‘This result suggests that Africanization could have started prior to 1993 through matings of migrant drones with resident European queens.’
    1. 3.1 A person who does no useful work and lives off others.
      ‘the University takes all the profit and redistributes it to drones like him’
      • ‘Angry mindless drones swarm in and complain about the review because they're too dense to realize it's a joke.’
      • ‘Oh, you're right, they do sound like mindless drones when they greet you, Toni!’
      • ‘It should have been a good line, but he sounded like a petulant drone with an overdeveloped sense of entitlement.’
      • ‘It is possible that this structure could accomplish something, if these relatives, cronies, hangers on, drones and bludgers were of any consequence, or even if they were a little better than mediocre.’
      • ‘The Union Movement must submit to a purge, it must harshly discard the parasitical drones and rebuild the hive.’
      hanger-on, parasite, leech, passenger
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  • 4A remote-controlled pilotless aircraft or missile.

    • ‘It is a game whose rules are betrayal and paranoia; whose tools are spies and observation drones and cruise missiles.’
    • ‘Overhead, a drone whirred menacingly, and a helicopter gunship cruised the coast.’
    • ‘After all, in the past they had used the missiles on the remotely piloted drones to strike at terrorists.’
    • ‘Overhead we hear drones, and from our left the occasional clatter of the Apache choppers, but there is no gunfire in the streets, no armed fighters in sight.’
    • ‘The ship will normally control two above surface drones called Surface Auxiliary Vessels, built by Danyard.’
    • ‘Yet while pilotless drones are dehumanised and impersonalised, mobile phone ring tones and screensavers are instances of the humanity and personality of the people behind technology.’
    • ‘It has previously shot down several helicopters and unmanned drones.’
    • ‘Alongside the drones are the cruise missiles and guided bombs, bigger and better than in previous campaigns.’
    • ‘These aircraft were converted to target drones with the designation of F4B - 4A and most met an inglorious end while being fired at by Navy gunners.’
    • ‘With a nuclear ballistic missile against a drone, a near miss was counted as a hit.’
    • ‘High-performance tactical aircraft or drones would cross the demilitarized zone and North Korean coasts and penetrate up to fifty miles inland.’
    • ‘Today, commanders can get preliminary data almost immediately - either from the planes that dropped the bombs, other aircraft or unmanned drones in the area.’
    • ‘The EU lacks heavy-lift aircraft, attack helicopters, fighter/ground attack aircraft, and unmanned drones, and has to rely on American spy satellites for basic intelligence.’
    • ‘More than 70 tanks and 60 Bradley fighting vehicles took part in the raid as tank-killing A10 Warthog planes and pilot-less drones prowled the smoke-wreathed sky.’
    • ‘This force began combat on September 27, using both operatives on the ground and Predator surveillance drones equipped with missiles that could be launched by remote control.’
    • ‘Above us we heard the buzzing sound of slow-moving unmanned aerial surveillance drones circling the sky.’
    • ‘Why aren't they attacking with drones or missiles again?’
    • ‘This makes it even more versatile than unmanned spy drones which are remote-controlled from the base.’
    • ‘He released a missile shower on the drones and landed.’
    • ‘And remote control aircraft, or drones, will be used for the first time.’


Old English drān, drǣn ‘male bee’, from a West Germanic verb meaning ‘resound, boom’; related to Dutch dreunen ‘to drone’, German dröhnen ‘to roar’, and Swedish dröna ‘to drowse’.