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[drif-ter] /ˈdrɪf tər/
a person or thing that drifts.
a person who goes from place to place, job to job, etc., remaining in each for a short period.
Also called drift boat. a boat used in fishing with a drift net.
Origin of drifter
1860-65; drift + -er1 Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2015.
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Examples from the web for drifter
  • With everyone away, it would appear to the police to be the work of a drifter.
  • drifter data can be compared to the calculated currents to determine how accurate the estimates of speed and direction are.
  • The drifter occasionally rises to the surface to send a signal that relays its position.
  • Students will calculate the magnitude of ocean currents, given data from drifter studies.
  • One satellite-tracked drifter was dropped at the start of trawling on the first day of the cruise.
  • drifter tracks indicated both long-distance transport and local retention.
British Dictionary definitions for drifter


a person or thing that drifts
a person who moves aimlessly from place to place, usually without a regular job
a boat used for drift-net fishing
(nautical) a large jib of thin material used in light breezes
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 drifter

1864, as a mining term; 1883, "boat fishing with drift-nets;" agent noun from drift (v.). Meaning "vagrant" is from 1908.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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Slang definitions & phrases for drifter



A derelict; BUM (1908+) drift off track

verb phrase

To deviate from proper conduct: I sometimes drift off track a bit, but I really try to do what is right (1970s+)

The Dictionary of American Slang, Fourth Edition by Barbara Ann Kipfer, PhD. and Robert L. Chapman, Ph.D.
Copyright (C) 2007 by HarperCollins Publishers.
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