adjective, fleet·er, fleet·est.
- swift; rapid: to be fleet of foot; a fleet horse.
verb (used without object)
- to move swiftly; fly.
- Nautical. to change position; shift.
- to glide along like a stream.
- to fade; vanish.
- Obsolete. to float; drift; swim.
verb (used with object)
- to cause (time) to pass lightly or swiftly.
- to move or change the position of.
- to separate the blocks of (a tackle).
- to lay (a rope) along a deck.
- a number of warships organized as a tactical unit
- all the warships of a nation
- a number of aircraft, ships, buses, etc, operating together or under the same ownership
- rapid in movement; swift
- poetic fleeting; transient
- (intr) to move rapidly
- (intr) archaic to fade away smoothly; glide
- (tr) nautical
- to change the position of (a hawser)
- to pass (a messenger or lead) to a hawser from a winch for hauling in
- to spread apart (the blocks of a tackle)
- (intr) obsolete to float or swim
- (tr) obsolete to cause (time) to pass rapidly
- mainly Southeast English a small coastal inlet; creek
noun the Fleet
- a stream that formerly ran into the Thames between Ludgate Hill and Fleet Street and is now a covered sewer
- Also called: Fleet Prison (formerly) a London prison, esp used for holding debtors
“swift,” 1520s, but probably older than the record; apparently from or cognate with Old Norse fliotr “swift,” and from the root of fleet (v.)). Related: Fleetness.
Old English fleotan “to float, drift, flow, swim, sail,” later (c.1200) “to flow,” from Proto-Germanic *fleut- (cf. Old Frisian fliata, Old Saxon fliotan “to flow,” Old High German fliozzan “to float, flow,” German flieszen “to flow,” Old Norse fliota “to float, flow”), from PIE root *pleu- “to flow, run, swim” (see pluvial).
Meaning “to glide away like a stream, vanish imperceptibly” is from c.1200; hence “to fade, to vanish” (1570s). Related: Fleeted; fleeting.
Old English fleot “ship, raft, floating vessel,” from fleotan “to float” (see fleet (v.)). Sense of “naval force” is pre-1200. The Old English word also meant “creek, inlet, flow of water,” especially one into the Thames near Ludgate Hill, which lent its name to Fleet Street (home of newspaper and magazine houses, standing for “the English press” since 1882), Fleet prison, etc.