Hone in vs. home in? What's the difference?


[floht] /floʊt/
verb (used without object)
to rest or remain on the surface of a liquid; be buoyant:
The hollow ball floated.
to move gently on the surface of a liquid; drift along:
The canoe floated downstream.
to rest or move in a liquid, the air, etc.:
a balloon floating on high.
to move lightly and gracefully:
She floated down the stairs.
to move or hover before the eyes or in the mind:
Romantic visions floated before his eyes.
to pass from one person to another:
A nasty rumor about his firm is floating around town.
to be free from attachment or involvement.
to move or drift about:
to float from place to place.
to vacillate (often followed by between).
to be launched, as a company, scheme, etc.
(of a currency) to be allowed to fluctuate freely in the foreign-exchange market instead of being exchanged at a fixed rate.
(of an interest rate) to change periodically according to money-market conditions.
Commerce. to be in circulation, as an acceptance; be awaiting maturity.
verb (used with object)
to cause to float.
to cover with water or other liquid; flood; irrigate.
to launch (a company, scheme, etc.); set going.
to issue on the stock market in order to raise money, as stocks or bonds.
to let (a currency or interest rate) fluctuate in the foreign-exchange or money market.
to make smooth with a float, as the surface of plaster.
Theater. to lay down (a flat), usually by bracing the bottom edge of the frame with the foot and allowing the rest to fall slowly to the floor.
something that floats, as a raft.
something for buoying up.
an inflated bag to sustain a person in water; life preserver.
(in certain types of tanks, cisterns, etc.) a device, as a hollow ball, that through its buoyancy automatically regulates the level, supply, or outlet of a liquid.
Nautical. a floating platform attached to a wharf, bank, or the like, and used as a landing.
Aeronautics. a hollow, boatlike structure under the wing or fuselage of a seaplane or flying boat, keeping it afloat in water.
Angling. a piece of cork or other material for supporting a baited line in the water and indicating by its movements when a fish bites.
Zoology. an inflated organ that supports an animal in the water.
a vehicle bearing a display, usually an elaborate tableau, in a parade or procession:
Each class prepared a float for the football pageant.
a glass of fruit juice or soft drink with one or more scoops of ice cream floating in it:
a root-beer float.
(especially in the northeastern U.S.) a milk shake with one or more scoops of ice cream floating in it.
paddle1 (def 6).
Banking. uncollected checks and commercial paper in process of transfer from bank to bank.
the total amount of any cost-of-living or other variable adjustments added to an employee's pay or a retiree's benefits:
a float of $6 per month on top of Social Security benefits.
an act or instance of floating, as a currency on the foreign-exchange market.
Building Trades.
  1. a flat tool for spreading and smoothing plaster or stucco.
  2. a tool for polishing marble.
a single-cut file of moderate smoothness.
a loose-fitting, sometimes very full dress without a waistline.
(in weaving and knitting) a length of yarn that extends over several rows or stitches without being interworked.
British. a sum of money used by a storekeeper to provide change for the till at the start of a day's business.
British. a small vehicle, usually battery powered, used to make deliveries, as of milk.
a low-bodied dray for transporting heavy goods.
Geology, Mining.
  1. loose fragments of rock, ore, etc., that have been moved from one place to another by the action of wind, water, etc.
  2. ore that has been washed downhill from an orebody and is found lying on the surface of the ground.
  3. any mineral in suspension in water.
Usually, floats. British Theater, footlight (def 1).
Origin of float
before 1000; Middle English floten, Old English flotian; cognate with Old Norse flota, Middle Dutch vloten; akin to Old English flēotan to fleet2
Related forms
outfloat, verb (used with object)
refloat, verb
3. hover, waft, drift, suspend. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2015.
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Examples from the Web for float
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • I used to drift and float on great seas of heat until I almost slept.

    Angel Island Inez Haynes Gillmore
  • As for boat, or spars, the former would not float, and of the last there was not one.

    Ned Myers James Fenimore Cooper
  • A man who has swallowed enough sod-corn whisky in Oshkosh to float the Great Eastern, to be afraid of this thin drink.

    Nasby in Exile David R. Locke
  • The tide was rising now, and presently the Ithaca began to float.

    The Monster Men Edgar Rice Burroughs
  • On the 13th, ice began to float down the river for the first time; and, on the ensuing day, the ground was covered with snow.

British Dictionary definitions for float


to rest or cause to rest on the surface of a fluid or in a fluid or space without sinking; be buoyant or cause to exhibit buoyancy: oil floats on water, to float a ship
to move or cause to move buoyantly, lightly, or freely across a surface or through air, water, etc; drift: fog floated across the road
to move about aimlessly, esp in the mind: thoughts floated before him
to suspend or be suspended without falling; hang: lights floated above them
  1. to launch or establish (a commercial enterprise, etc)
  2. to offer for sale (stock or bond issues, etc) on the stock market
(transitive) (finance) to allow (a currency) to fluctuate against other currencies in accordance with market forces
(transitive) to flood, inundate, or irrigate (land), either artificially or naturally
(transitive) to spread, smooth, or level (a surface of plaster, rendering, etc)
something that floats
(angling) an indicator attached to a baited line that sits on the water and moves when a fish bites
a small hand tool with a rectangular blade used for floating plaster, etc
(mainly US) any buoyant object, such as a platform or inflated tube, used offshore by swimmers or, when moored alongside a pier, as a dock by vessels
Also called paddle. a blade of a paddle wheel
(Brit) a buoyant garment or device to aid a person in staying afloat
a hollow watertight structure fitted to the underside of an aircraft to allow it to land on water
another name for air bladder (sense 2)
an exhibit carried in a parade, esp a religious parade
a motor vehicle used to carry a tableau or exhibit in a parade, esp a civic parade
a small delivery vehicle, esp one powered by batteries: a milk float
(Austral & NZ) a vehicle for transporting horses
(banking, mainly US) the total value of uncollected cheques and other commercial papers
(mainly US & Canadian) a sum to be applied to minor expenses; petty cash
a sum of money used by shopkeepers to provide change at the start of the day's business, this sum being subtracted from the total at the end of the day when calculating the day's takings
the hollow floating ball of a ballcock
(engineering) a hollow cylindrical structure in a carburettor that actuates the fuel valve
(mainly US & Canadian) a carbonated soft drink with a scoop of ice cream in it
(in textiles) a single thread brought to or above the surface of a woven fabric, esp to form a pattern
(forestry) a measure of timber equal to eighteen loads
See also float off, floats
Derived Forms
floatable, adjective
floatability, noun
Word Origin
Old English flotian; related to Old Norse flota , Old Saxon flotōn; see fleet²
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 float

late Old English flotian "to float" (class II strong verb; past tense fleat, past participle floten), from Proto-Germanic *flutojanan (cf. Old Norse flota, Middle Dutch vloten), from PIE root *pleu- "to flow" (see pluvial). Of motion through air, from 1630s. Related: Floated; floating.


early 12c., "state of floating" (Old English flot meant "body of water"), from float (v.). Meaning "platform on wheels used for displays in parades, etc." is from 1888, probably from earlier sense of "flat-bottomed boat" (1550s). As a type of fountain drink, by 1915.

Float.--An ade upon the top of which is floated a layer of grape juice, ginger ale, or in some cases a disher of fruit sherbet or ice cream. In the latter case it would be known as a "sherbet float" or an "ice-cream float." ["The Dispenser's Formulary: Or, Soda Water Guide," New York, 1915]

Few soda water dispensers know what is meant by a "Float Ice Cream Soda." This is not strange since the term is a coined one. By a "float ice cream soda" is meant a soda with the ice cream floating on top, thus making a most inviting appearance and impressing the customer that you are liberal with your ice cream, when you are not really giving any more than the fellow that mixes his ice cream "out of sight." ["The Spatula," Boston, July, 1908]

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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float in Science
An air-filled sac in certain aquatic organisms, such as kelp, that helps maintain buoyancy. Also called air bladder, air vesicle.
The American Heritage® Science Dictionary
Copyright © 2002. Published by Houghton Mifflin. All rights reserved.
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Slang definitions & phrases for float



A customer who leaves while one is looking for merchandise (1950s+ Salespersons)


  1. To loaf on the job; goof off (1930+)
  2. To disseminate; send out: Reporters have been told to float their resumes (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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float in Technology

The usual keyword for the floating-point data type, e.g. in the C programming language. The keyword "double" usually also introduces a floating-point type, but with twice the precession of a float.

The Free On-line Dictionary of Computing, © Denis Howe 2010
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