O.E. flotian "to float" (class II strong verb; past tense fleat, pp. floten), from P.Gmc. *flutojanan (cf. O.N. flota, M.Du. vloten). Related: Floated; floating. The noun is attested from early 12c., "state of floating" (O.E. flot meant "body of water"); meaning "platform on wheels used for displays in parades, etc." is from 1888, probably from earlier sense of "flat-bottomed boat" (1557). Floater "dead body found in water" is 1890, U.S. slang.