Definition of floe in US English:


(also ice floe)


  • A sheet of floating ice.

    • ‘There was no complete break in the recorded tracks of individual floes.’
    • ‘They hauled the lifeboats across the ice for the next four days and stopped on a floe of ice which they christened Ocean Camp.’
    • ‘Unfortunately, the ice cracked, leaving Winston alone on his own ice floe, while Wilfred barked on the safe side, trying to encourage him to jump over the rapidly widening crack.’
    • ‘This choice allowed us to travel comfortably with the wind at our backs while viewing the constant vista of mountains and valleys, the ice-speckled Atlantic Ocean in the distance dotted with floes of drift ice from Quebec and Labrador.’
    • ‘Floes of any size can be found at all distances from the ice pack edge, including vast ([less than] 2 km) floes near the ice pack edge and much smaller floes in the central ice pack.’
    • ‘Pack ice formed on the surface and drifted in floes until the water levels dropped and it lodged on higher ground.’
    • ‘Fast ice and vast floes, on average, dominated both study areas over the study period.’
    • ‘Great floes jostled against each other piling up to form miniature icebergs.’
    • ‘Clearly, most information on ivory gulls came from observations made when gulls were either in migration or feeding away from nesting colonies, near pack ice or the floe edge, but we did record information on one colony.’
    • ‘Measurements by other researchers at Arctic sites further inland show less mercury pollution, indicating that the heavy fallout may be restricted to the near-coastal environment and parcels of open ocean where floes of annual ice melt.’
    • ‘The ship moved through the pack ice, elbowing floes out of the way as if they were unwanted thoughts.’
    • ‘Against a painted Antarctic backdrop of glaciers, icebergs and floes, groups of stately Emperor penguins pose like actors at curtain call.’
    • ‘From February to June, large floes and landfast ice predominated, whereas small floes formed the major cover from August to December.’
    • ‘This autumn he will be setting off on an historic visit to the Antarctic, spending 50 days on board a ship anchored to a drifting ice floe in the Weddell Sea.’
    • ‘During the course of the voyage he made close to eighty oil sketches and numerous pencil drawings of ice in the form of icebergs, glaciers, packs, and floes under various conditions of light and atmosphere.’
    • ‘Alternatively, the lack of multi-year floes in the shorefast ice can be ascribed to the weather systems occurring just before freeze-up.’
    • ‘These rotations further suggest that forces acting on the nearshore edges of large floes behave differently from those acting on offshore edges.’
    • ‘En route to the South Pole, the ship was grounded in an ice floe.’
    • ‘Locally, these floes are also known as the Permanent Polar Pack Ice.’
    • ‘While a few savvy anglers carry flares, stoves, and tents, the majority are ill-prepared for hours or days stuck on a drifting ice floe.’


Early 19th century (superseding flake in this sense): probably from Norwegian flo, from Old Norse fló ‘layer’.