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[boo-ee, boi] /ˈbu i, bɔɪ/
Nautical. a distinctively shaped and marked float, sometimes carrying a signal or signals, anchored to mark a channel, anchorage, navigational hazard, etc., or to provide a mooring place away from the shore.
verb (used with object)
to keep afloat or support by or as if by a life buoy; keep from sinking (often followed by up):
The life jacket buoyed her up until help arrived.
Nautical. to mark with a buoy or buoys.
to sustain or encourage (often followed by up):
Her courage was buoyed by the doctor's assurances.
verb (used without object)
to float or rise by reason of lightness.
Origin of buoy
late Middle English
1425-75; late Middle English boye a float < Middle French *boie, boue(e) < Germanic; akin to beacon
Related forms
unbuoyed, adjective
Can be confused
boy, buoy.
5. lift, uplift, boost, lighten; maintain, nurture. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2015.
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Examples from the Web for buoy
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • Lay by this, young lady,” the Captain went on, “that buoy chain was cut.

    Witches Cove Roy J. Snell
  • But I'll have a sharp look out after the 'buoy,' and he'll do well, you'll see.

    Luttrell Of Arran Charles James Lever
  • Faith and hope only buoy the heart, and time brings the end.

    The Memories of Fifty Years William H. Sparks
  • As the jib and foresail were taken off her, she shot up to the buoy.

    The Three Commanders W.H.G. Kingston
  • He was rather angry with young Chisholm, because he was persuaded Wyndham had not seen the buoy.

    Wyndham's Pal Harold Bindloss
British Dictionary definitions for buoy


/bɔɪ; US ˈbuːɪ/
a distinctively shaped and coloured float, anchored to the bottom, for designating moorings, navigable channels, or obstructions in a body of water See also life buoy
(transitive) usually foll by up. to prevent from sinking: the belt buoyed him up
(transitive) usually foll by up. to raise the spirits of; hearten
(transitive) (nautical) to mark (a channel or obstruction) with a buoy or buoys
(intransitive) to rise to the surface
Word Origin
C13: probably of Germanic origin; compare Middle Dutch boeie, boeye; see beacon
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for buoy

late 13c., perhaps from either Old French buie or Middle Dutch boeye, both from West Germanic *baukna "beacon, signal" (see beacon). OED, however, supports Middle Dutch boeie, or Old French boie "fetter, chain" (see boy), "because of its being fettered to a spot."


late 16c., "to mark with a buoy," from buoy (n.). Meaning "rise up, lift, sustain" is from c.1600, perhaps influenced by Spanish boyar "to float," ultimately from the same source. In the figurative sense (of hopes, spirits, etc.) it is recorded from 1640s. Related: Buoyed; buoying.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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