When some vehicle (like a car, a boat, or a helicopter) moves forward, the current flowing behind it is a slipstream: a current of air or water that follows closely behind that moving vehicle.
Figuratively, a slipstream is something that seems to flow helplessly behind some powerful thing or person who seems to be moving.
More loosely, we can use “slipstream” to mean “anything that seems to flow forcefully along,” as in “the slipstream of history” or “the slipstream of progress.”
“Slipstream” is a verb, too. To slipstream is to follow along closely, either helplessly or in imitation, behind some powerful thing or person.
Part of speech:
Often a noun, the countable kind: “this slipstream,” “they jump between slipstreams.”
Also a verb, the transitive kind: “she slipstreamed them.”
slipstreams, slipstreamed, slipstreaming
How to use it:
“Slipstream” is a fun, stylish word with a modern, technological flavor.
Its tone can be negative: if you’re in a slipstream, you’re perhaps less active, less hardworking, less creative or original, or less of a leader compared to whoever is creating that slipstream.
The key to using the word “slipstream” is to imply that some powerful person or thing makes or has a swiftly moving current, which draws in some less-powerful person or thing.
So, we talk about people or things being in the slipstream of someone or something else. More specifically, we say that someone or something is drifting, flying, soaring, being caught in, being pulled into, or being carried along in some slipstream.
“Blockbusters seem faster and more furious than ever, and not just because producers are desperate to slipstream the success of Vin Diesel’s tyre-screeching franchise.”
— Graeme Virtue, The Guardian, 9 October 2019
“We looked towards what [David Bowie] did, we are all still walking in his slipstream. We are still many, many yards behind what he was doing because he led the way. “
— Midge Ure, as quoted by Tara John, Time, 11 January 2016