Definition of drifter in US English:



  • 1A person who is continually moving from place to place, without any fixed home or job.

    • ‘I heard that she took a job as night security somewhere, until she busted a drifter that wandered into her area.’
    • ‘Instead, it became a magnet for mainly white drifters and broken families.’
    • ‘The hippie characters' conception of freedom leads to their shocking appearance and to their choice to be drifters, and hence strangers.’
    • ‘Salvation seems to arrive in the form of a drifter that Tim meets at the bar, a fellow who helps him cover up the killing.’
    • ‘In 1994, like so many other drifters before him, he settled in the San Fernando Valley, California, with his Chicago-born wife, Tania, and their daughter, Lily.’
    • ‘With betting banished from Texas, anybody wanting to earn a living from racing headed to New Mexico, where the tracks attracted a colourful assortment of chancers, drifters and apprentice horsemen.’
    • ‘In short, we had to pander to the general belief that drifters were losers who were ashamed of their personal histories.’
    • ‘His victims are invisible, unlikely to be missed: prostitutes, drifters, bottom-feeders.’
    • ‘Yet its central theme was understandable to all but the most slack of thirty-something drifters.’
    • ‘When I moved to New York, I had the idea it would be a non-stop playground, a party with fellow dreamers and drifters that lasted all night, every night.’
    • ‘Some have middle-class backgrounds while others are drifters from broken homes.’
    • ‘But I suppose there's no denying that we learn from our mistakes, just as we learn from toothless, disease-ridden drifters.’
    • ‘He and his colleagues, he writes, were ‘permanent rangers on a temporary river,’ stuck on land wanted by nobody but the gun-toting drifters and weekend drunkards who squatted in the forest.’
    • ‘These young drifters will wander in a spiritual wilderness for six, eight, ten, or twelve years and return to participate in faith life when they get married or have a child.’
    • ‘He also argued that some of the wards contained above-average proportions of drifters, who would not turn out on election day anyway.’
    • ‘Her songs are peopled with drifters, ramblers, old lovers.’
    • ‘These are not drifters or unemployed loners tempted into a life of terrorism by the promise of money or glory; rather, most of them had good jobs.’
    • ‘Some are ragged drifters, but most disturbing is the sight of entire families - a haggard and exhausted father and mother, accompanied by a bevy of grimy children - sprawled around a campfire of twigs.’
    • ‘There's all sorts of strange drifters in there with holed t-shirts and long grey hair.’
    • ‘It's difficult for me to believe a transient, a drifter comes in off the street - the alarm doesn't go off, the dog doesn't bark, nobody screams, she goes back to get her shoes, leaves without a trace.’
    wanderer, traveller, transient, roamer, tramp, vagabond, vagrant, person of no fixed abode
    View synonyms
  • 2A fishing boat equipped with a drift net.

    • ‘He was rescued in turn by a trawler, a drifter and a British destroyer - twice employing his pigeons.’
    • ‘Fishermen of Cape Clear, Long Island and Roaringwater Bay, used the mackerel drifters and the Heir Island fishermen worked their pots over hundreds of miles along the Cork coast in lobster boats.’
    • ‘U-boats were attacked by aircraft, airships, Q-ships, mines, drifters, Naval vessels (including submarines) and merchant ships.’
    • ‘Other chapters in this informative book cover the drift-net; trawling in the west coast of Scotland lochs; the Scottish east coast fishers in the days of sail; steam drifters and more recent fishing methods.’
    • ‘Many thousands arrived on the Norfolk coast and on light-vessels and drifters offshore.’