FLOAT (in O. Eng. flot and flota, in the verbal form fléotan; the Teutonic root is flut-, another form of flu-, seen in "flow," cf. "fleet"; the root is seen in Gr., to sail, Lat. pluere, to rain; the Lat. fluere and fluctus, wave, is not connected), the action of moving on the surface of water, or through the air. The word is used also of a wave, or the flood of the tide, river, backwater or stream, and of any object floating in water, as a mass of ice or weeds; a movable landing-stage, a flat-bottomed boat, or a raft, or, in fishing, of the cork or quill used to support a baited line or fishing-net. It is also applied to the hollow or inflated organ by means of which certain animals, such as the "Portuguese man-of-war," swim, to a hollow metal ball or piece of whinstone, etc., used to regulate the level of water in a tank or boiler, and to a piece of ivory in the cistern of a barometer. "Float" is also the name of one of the boards of a paddle-wheel or water-wheel. In a theatrical sense, it is used to denote the footlights. The word is also applied to something broad, level and shallow, as a wooden frame attached to a cart or wagon for the purpose of increasing the carrying capacity; and to a special kind of low, broad cart for carrying heavy weights, and to a platform on wheels used for shows in a procession. The term is applied also to various tools, especially to many kinds of trowels used in plastering. It is also used of a dock where vessels may float, as at Bristol, and of the trenches used in "floating" land. In geology and mining, loose rock or ore brought down by water is known as "float," and in tin-mining it is applied to a large trough used for the smelted tin. In weaving the word is used of the passing of weft threads over part of the warp without being woven in with it, also of the threads so passed. In the United States a voter not attached to any particular party and open to bribery is called a "float" or "floater."
Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)