FLEET, a word in all its significances, derived from the root of the verb "to fleet," from O. Eng. fleotan, to float or flow, which ultimately derives from an Indo-European root seen in Gr., to sail, and Lat. pluere, to rain; cf. Dutch vliessen, and Ger. fliessen. In English usage it survives in the name of many places, such as Byfleet and Northfleet, and in the Fleet, a stream in London that formerly ran into the Thames between the bottom of Ludgate Hill and the present Fleet Street. From the idea of "float" comes the application of the word to ships, when in company, and particularly to a large number of warships under the supreme command of a single officer, with the individual ships, or groups of ships, under individual and subordinate command. The distinction between a fleet and a squadron is often one of name only. In the British navy the various main divisions are or have been called fleets and squadrons indifferently. The word is also frequently used of a company of fishing vessels, and in fishing is also applied to a row of drift-nets fastened together. From the original meaning of the word "flowing" comes the adjectival use of the word, swift, or speedy; so also "fleeting," of something evanescent or fading away, with the idea of the fast-flowing lapse of time.
Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)