fleet

Definitions

General English

General Science

  • noun a number of vehicles such as ships, aircraft or buses

Cars & Driving

  • noun all the vehicles owned by a company or other organization

Commerce

  • noun a group of cars belonging to a company and used by its staff

Military

  • noun a large number of warships

Travel

  • noun a group of vehicles belonging to the same owner

Origin & History of “fleet”

Fleet is one of a vast tangled web of words which traces its history back ultimately to Indo-European *pleu-, denoting ‘flow, float’ (amongst its other English descendants are fly, flood, flow, fledge, fowl, plover, and pluvial). Fleet itself comes from the extended Indo-European base *pleud-, via the Germanic verb *fleutan and Old English flēotan ‘float, swim’ (modern English float comes from the related Old English flotian). The verb has now virtually died out, but it survives in the form of the present participial adjective fleeting, which developed the sense ‘transient’ in the 16th century, and in the derived noun fleet: Old English seems to have had two distinct nouns flēot based on the verb flēotan, one of which meant ‘ships’, and the other of which signified ‘creek, inlet’ (it survives in the name of London’s Fleet street, which runs down to the now covered-up Thames tributary, the river Fleet). The adjective fleet ‘quick’ (as in ‘fleet of foot’) was probably borrowed from Old Norse fljótr, likewise a descendant of Germanic *fleut-.
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