Definition of drone in US English:



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

    ‘in the far distance a machine droned’
    • ‘The air conditioner droned in that maddening old machine way, but it was too hot to not have the thing on.’
    • ‘The monotonous hum of the mining drill droned on.’
    • ‘The dull thump of the bass beat of some unknown song droned on, providing a never-ending soundtrack to the party.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘It was cold and hard against my ear, but the dial tone droned on clearly.’
    • ‘The television drones on, white noise in the back of my feverish mind.’
    • ‘The cicadas droned all the way home, joined by grasshoppers who sounded like gadgets of gears and springs.’
    • ‘The low, humming buzz from the many computer screens droned constantly on.’
    • ‘Then I stopped the mower, and the cicadas droned on, on, on.’
    • ‘His voice droned and buzzed in Sean's ears like a hovering bee, more so today than any other day.’
    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’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘Then he droned on for an hour, so softly I could hardly hear a word over the post-dinner chitchat.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘‘He droned on and on, frequently mentioning how much better the candidates would sound the more we drank,’ a witness told us.’
      • ‘‘Hello, my dear,’ she droned sweetly with a low hiss.’
      • ‘How else can they drone on about the same boring subject continuously?’
      • ‘Mrs. Flaunders sends her a nasty look and continues droning on.’
      • ‘They had begged, pleaded, droned on and on until in the end I gave in.’
      • ‘I rolled my eyes as Clarissa continued to drone on.’
      • ‘Throughout the entire class I fought to keep myself awake as the teacher droned on in monotone.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘Convinced that she was indeed taking notes, Mr. Hawthorn continued droning on about the Samurai warriors.’
      • ‘‘O.K., one espresso ’, Keagan droned, shuffling over to the cappuccino machine.’
      • ‘As Jack continued on droning about how Chin dislike anime, Zack's head was swarming with questions & incredulity.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘The voice of the teacher droned on monotonously about some mathematical formula, but the normally attentive teenager had other things on his mind.’
      • ‘Patrick continued to drone on, and had not spotted them.’
      • ‘As Mr Brown droned on and on, delivering possibly the dullest speech of his life, she fell asleep.’
      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 low continuous humming sound.

    ‘he nodded off to the drone of the car engine’
    • ‘Occupying every single empty seat in sight, the crowd's continuous drone echoed within the tall tent.’
    • ‘The silence outside. Living so close to Kennedy Airport, the sound of planes getting ready to land is a constant drone throughout the day.’
    • ‘Noises such as the drone of cicadas, the crackling of branches, flies buzzing, and the calls of birds had drowned out in her thoughts.’
    • ‘We were silent for a few moments, the drone of the lesson buzzing like a fly in my ears.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘Colonel Donovan could hear the resonating booms above the noisy drone of the plane's engine.’
    • ‘My brother hummed turbine noises, but the drone of thunder muted him.’
    • ‘Even when warm and cruising on the motorway it gives off a drone, and tyre noise also intrudes.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘The marching of our feet rings out in unison, an endless drone accompanied by the clattering hooves of the knights' horses.’
    • ‘The drone begins to sound similar to a vacuum cleaner sucking up all the surrounding life.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘I punched in Anna's phone number, and the drone of the ringing was putting me to sleep, it was 10: 30 pm already.’
    • ‘‘There's something you want to say,’ he said, studying her complacent gaze as the even drone of the moving car overtook her senses.’
    • ‘And the thunder-like drone of its eight engines strikes fear into troops below.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘Across the Channel the night thundered with the drone of 1,700 planes.’
    • ‘Tobias couldn't hear himself scream over the drone of planes and noise of the explosions rattling the earth all around him.’
    • ‘Both drones and noise are essential elements in music.’
    • ‘In the background, cameras whirred like demented bluebottles, adding their drone to the low buzz of conversation.’
    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’
      • ‘Isabella listened to the drone of his monotonous voice, and did as he said.’
      • ‘Very few listened to the monotonous drone of the teacher as he explained proofs and parabolas.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘So when I reach my classroom, I listen to the monotonous drone of the teacher.’
      • ‘This great change manifested itself in a sudden tiredness and slight nausea as the speaker's monotonous drone confirmed exactly the opposite.’
      tonelessness, flatness, lack of inflection
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  • 2A continuous musical note of low pitch.

    • ‘Of its sixteen tracks, about seven are brief spectral drones, dark, nocturnal segues to the more fully developed pieces.’
    • ‘In that drone Harley heard an echo of the blues, but he also heard something deeper.’
    • ‘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 the track moves along, the static, rumbles, guitar notes, and drones all mix together, with the drone slowly building and dominating the proceedings.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘It doesn't help that the musical backing is a five-minute drone of grating computerized noise.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘The sounds become electronic drones, otherworldly howls, pulverizing static, and then are melded into harsh industrial soundscapes.’
    • ‘The former track is comprised almost entirely of bass-heavy drones and pulsating synth waves, slow echoes fading into the ether.’
    • ‘Up to four unstopped strings, called bourdons, sound drones.’
    • ‘Hissing drones and cymbal crashes sweep away any memory of the former's dulcet overtones.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘Thus the music feels bounded by the drone, that the drone is the undulating surface of a musical object.’
    • ‘The melodies are almost invariably composed with buzzing, pleasantly grating synthesizer drones.’
    • ‘The other synth sounds are drones and squiggles.’
    • ‘Track two of this CD starts with a low drone and the sound of rain falling gently.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘Finally, her right hand slowed and then stopped, although her left hand continued the drone for a few notes before it, too fell still.’
    hum, drone, singing, note
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    1. 2.1 A musical instrument, or part of one, sounding a continuous note, 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.
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘It provided a tone that was rich with upper-end harmonics and a full bass from the drone strings.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘There are two components other than the bag which set the Bagpipes from other instruments, the reed chanter and the drone pipes.’
  • 3A male bee in a colony of social bees, which does no work but can fertilize a queen.

    • ‘The queen bee is serviced by her male drones, and then she kills them off one by one.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘Furthermore, there are never that many drones in a colony, as they do not contribute to providing food.’
    • ‘Under natural conditions a queen mates with several drones.’
    • ‘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?’
    • ‘Africanized queens are free to mate with European drones, and perhaps this has resulted in a dilution of the Africanized gene pool.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘This result suggests that Africanization could have started prior to 1993 through matings of migrant drones with resident European queens.’
    • ‘You also have the drone bee that doesn't do anything except fertilise the young queens.’
    • ‘In nature, a queen bee will mate with as many as 20 drones.’
    • ‘There are only 100 or so males, or drones, per hive.’
    • ‘Young men buzzed around her like drones to their queen bee.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘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.’
    1. 3.1 A person who does no useful work and lives off others.
      • ‘Angry mindless drones swarm in and complain about the review because they're too dense to realize it's a joke.’
      • ‘It should have been a good line, but he sounded like a petulant drone with an overdeveloped sense of entitlement.’
      • ‘The Union Movement must submit to a purge, it must harshly discard the parasitical drones and rebuild the hive.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘Oh, you're right, they do sound like mindless drones when they greet you, Toni!’
      hanger-on, parasite, leech, passenger
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  • 4A remote-controlled pilotless aircraft or missile.

    • ‘High-performance tactical aircraft or drones would cross the demilitarized zone and North Korean coasts and penetrate up to fifty miles inland.’
    • ‘It has previously shot down several helicopters and unmanned drones.’
    • ‘Above us we heard the buzzing sound of slow-moving unmanned aerial surveillance drones circling the sky.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘This makes it even more versatile than unmanned spy drones which are remote-controlled from the base.’
    • ‘And remote control aircraft, or drones, will be used for the first time.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘Alongside the drones are the cruise missiles and guided bombs, bigger and better than in previous campaigns.’
    • ‘The ship will normally control two above surface drones called Surface Auxiliary Vessels, built by Danyard.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘After all, in the past they had used the missiles on the remotely piloted drones to strike at terrorists.’
    • ‘He released a missile shower on the drones and landed.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘Today, commanders can get preliminary data almost immediately - either from the planes that dropped the bombs, other aircraft or unmanned drones in the area.’
    • ‘With a nuclear ballistic missile against a drone, a near miss was counted as a hit.’
    • ‘Why aren't they attacking with drones or missiles again?’
    • ‘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.’


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’.