Also found in: Dictionary, Thesaurus, Medical, Legal, Financial, Acronyms, Encyclopedia, Wikipedia.
float (one's) boat
To make someone happy. Often used in the phrase "whatever floats (one's) boat." A: "What do you want for dinner?" B: "Whatever floats your boat, I'm not even hungry." I think this new job in the lab will really float Isabel's boat.
float an idea
To suggest something in order to gauge interest in it or others' perception of it. Can you float the idea of closing the office early on Fridays in the summer, to see how management reacts?
not float (one's) boat
To not be particularly enjoyable, desirable, or exciting to someone. A: "They're showing Casablanca in the student theater, do you want to go?" B: "No thanks, black and white movies don't really float my boat." Well, the thought of spending my weekend weeding the back yard for a few bucks doesn't exactly float my boat, Dad.
whatever floats (one's) boat
Whatever makes one happy; whatever interests or excites (one). Most often heard as "whatever floats your boat." A: "What do you want for dinner?" B: "Whatever floats your boat, I'm not even hungry." Katelyn does whatever floats her boat without worrying about what other people think of her.
sink or swim
1. verb To either be successful right away or succumb to failure. The teacher expects you to have all the background material already learned, so you'll have to sink or swim the moment you start the course.
2. noun A situation in which one must either be successful right away or succumb to failure. In such a competitive business, it's always sink or swim for new companies looking to enter the market.
float a trial balloon
To propose something in order to get feedback on it. The phrase alludes to the former use of balloons to get information about the weather. When everyone objected to my idea, I reassured them that I was just floating a trial balloon and had not made any sort of decision on the matter.
1. To not be in a specific location. I just saw that book yesterday, so it must be floating around here somewhere.
2. To float or bob over or through a particular surface. Look at all the ducks just floating around the pond!
float on air
To be extremely happy. I've been floating on air ever since I got engaged!
float a loan
1. To receive a loan of money from someone or some institution. I had to float a loan to pay for the medical expenses. Thankfully they were able to float a loan and implement the repairs and upgrades the health inspector had demanded.
2. To give, or arrange for someone to give, a loan of money to someone else. In this usage, a noun or pronoun is used after "float." I'd be happy to float you a loan to help get your business off the ground. The house needs a lot of work, so they're looking around at creditors who might be willing to float them a loan.
float an air biscuit
slang To fart. I can't believe you floated an air biscuit in the car. Now we have to smell it all the way home!
float into (something)
1. Literally, to bob, drift, or glide into some thing or place, as on air or water. We floated into the tunnel on our inner tubes.
2. By extension, to move forward into some thing or place in a slow, easy manner. The bride floated into the church, her gown's exquisite train trailing behind her.
float (up)on (something)
To bob, drift, or glide over or on a particular surface. Look at all the ducks just floating on the water! The paper airplane floated upon the air for a few seconds before sinking to the ground.
float through (something)
1. Literally, to bob, drift, or glide over or through something, such as air or water. Look at all the ducks just floating through the water! The paper airplane floated through the air for a few seconds before sinking to the ground.
2. By extension, to move or act with little awareness, attention, or enthusiasm. I was so groggy after that nap that I basically floated through the rest of my day. You need to pick a major soon—you can't just float through college forever.
float a loan
Fig. to get a loan of money; to arrange for a loan of money. I couldn't afford to pay cash for the car, so I floated a loan. They needed money, so they had to float a loan.
to float from here to there freely. All sorts of paper and trash were floating around on the surface of the pond. Water hyacinths floated around, making a very tropical scene.
float into something
1. Lit. to move on water or in air into something. The huge cruise ship floated majestically into the harbor. The kite floated into a tree and was ruined.
2. Fig. to move into something gently, as if floating. She floated into the room, looking like Cinderella before midnight. Tom and Gloria floated into the theater like a king and queen. They must have rehearsed it.
float on air
Fig. [for someone] to feel free and euphoric. I was so happy, I was floating on air. Mary was floating on air after she won first prize.
float through something
1. Lit. to move slowly through water or air, gently. The boats floated through the water slowly and gracefully. As the clouds floated through the sky, they cast blotchy shadows on the ground.
2. Fig. [for someone] to move aimlessly through something. (As if semiconscious.) She has no ambition. She's just floating through life. He floated through his work that day. It is probably done all wrong.
float (up)on something
to drift as if on the surface of something; to drift along through the air. (Upon is formal and less commonly used than on.) The little tufts of dandelion seeds floated upon the breeze. The fluff floated on the breeze.
sink or swim
Fig. to fail or succeed. (Alludes to the choices available to someone who has fallen into the water.) After I've studied and learned all I can, I have to take the test and sink or swim. It's too late to help John now. It's sink or swim for him.
Whatever turns you on.
1. Inf. Whatever pleases or excites you is okay. Mary: Do you mind if I buy some of these flowers? Bill: Whatever turns you on. Mary: I just love to hear a raucous saxophone play some smooth jazz. Bob: Whatever turns you on, baby.
2. . Inf. a comment implying that it is strange to get so excited about something. (Essentially sarcastic.) Bob: I just go wild whenever I see pink gloves on a woman. I don't understand it. Bill: Whatever turns you on. Jane: You see, I never told anybody this, but whenever I see snow falling, I just go sort of mushy inside. Sue: Weird, Jane, weird. But, whatever turns you on.
sink or swim
Succumb or succeed, no matter what, as in Now that we've bought the farm, we'll have to make a go of it, sink or swim. This expression alludes to the former barbaric practice of throwing a suspected witch into deep water, often weighted down. In case of sinking, the victim died; in case of swimming, the victim was considered in league with the devil and therefore was executed. A related idiom, float or sink, was used by Chaucer in the late 1300s; Shakespeare had the current form in 1 Henry IV (1:3): "Or sink or swim."
float someone's boatINFORMAL
If something floats your boat, you find it exciting, attractive, or interesting. Create a space for yourself: light candles, burn incense, run a bath — whatever floats your boat. I can see the band's appeal. But it doesn't float my boat.
sink or swim
If someone has to sink or swim, they have to try to succeed on their own, and whether they succeed or fail depends completely on their own efforts and abilities. After three years of teaching and support at music college, musicians are left to sink or swim in the profession. Note: You can use sink-or-swim before a noun. Tomorrow afternoon, it's sink-or-swim time, her first game.
float a trial balloonmainly AMERICAN
COMMON If someone floats a trial balloon they suggest an idea or plan in order to see what people think about it. The administration has not officially released any details of the president's economic plan, although numerous trial balloons have been floated. Note: Other verbs can be used instead of float. Weeks ago, the Tories were flying a trial balloon about banning teacher strikes. Note: You can call an idea or suggestion that is made to test public opinion a trial balloon. The idea is nothing more than a trial balloon at this point. Note: Balloons were formerly used to find out about weather conditions.
float someone's boatappeal to or excite someone, especially sexually. informal
sink or swimfail or succeed entirely by your own efforts.
float/walk on ˈair(informal) be very happy about something: When I passed my driving test, I was walking on air for days.
float somebody’s ˈboat(informal) be what somebody likes: You can go swimming, hiking or just lie on the beach, whatever floats your boat.
ˌsink or ˈswim(saying) be in a situation where you will either succeed without help from other people, or fail completely: The government refused to give the company any help, and just left it to sink or swim.
1. To be or move in a nonspecific or unknown location: That pen must be floating around here somewhere. The travelers floated around the countryside, stopping here and there to eat and rest.
2. To move around while suspended on the surface of a fluid without sinking; float in no particular direction: Empty bottles and other debris float around in the cove at low tide.
float an air biscuit
tv. to break wind; to fart. (see also cut a muffin.) Who floated the air biscuit? P.U.
whatever turns you onand whatever floats your boat
tv. whatever excites you or interests you. (Main entry was said originally about sexual matters.) I can’t stand that kind of music, but whatever turns you on. Ketchup on hot dogs! Yuck! But whatever floats your boat.
whatever floats your boatverb
sink or swimInformal
To fail or succeed without alternative.
sink or swim
Succumb or survive; by extension, no matter what. This term alludes to the ancient practice of throwing a convicted witch (sometimes weighted down) into deep water. In case of sinking, the person drowned; in case of swimming, the person was considered in league with the devil and therefore was executed. Hence the outcome was the same. The term, which began life as float or sink, was already used by Chaucer in the fourteenth century. Shakespeare’s Hotspur said, “Or sink or swim” (Henry IV, Part 1, 1.3), and across the Atlantic, John Adams said, “Swim or sink, live or die, survive or perish with my country was my unalterable determination” (in a conversation with Jonathan Sewall, 1774).