verb (used with object)

  1. to put (something) aside and replace it by another or others; change or exchange: to shift friends; to shift ideas.
  2. to transfer from one place, position, person, etc., to another: to shift the blame onto someone else.
  3. Automotive. to change (gears) from one ratio or arrangement to another.
  4. Linguistics. to change in a systematic way, especially phonetically.

verb (used without object)

  1. to move from one place, position, direction, etc., to another.
  2. to manage to get along or succeed by oneself.
  3. to get along by indirect methods; use any expediency, trick, or evasion to get along or succeed: He shifted through life.
  4. to change gears in driving an automobile.
  5. Linguistics. to undergo a systematic, especially phonetic, change.
  6. to press a shift key, as on a typewriter keyboard.
  7. Archaic. to change one’s clothes.


  1. a change or transfer from one place, position, direction, person, etc., to another: a shift in the wind.
  2. a person’s scheduled period of work, especially the portion of the day scheduled as a day’s work when a shop, service, office, or industry operates continuously during both the day and night: She prefers the morning shift.
  3. a group of workers scheduled to work during such a period: The night shift reported.
  4. Baseball. a notable repositioning by several fielders to the left or the right of their normal playing position, an occasional strategy against batters who usually hit the ball to the same side of the field.
  5. Automotive. a gearshift.
  6. Clothing.
    1. a straight, loose-fitting dress worn with or without a belt.
    2. a woman’s chemise or slip.
  7. Football. a lateral or backward movement from one position to another, usually by two or more offensive players just before the ball is put into play.
  8. Mining. a dislocation of a seam or stratum; fault.
  9. Music. a change in the position of the left hand on the fingerboard in playing a stringed instrument.
  10. Linguistics.
    1. a change or system of parallel changes that affects the sound structure of a language, as the series of related changes in the English vowel system from Middle English to Modern English.
    2. a change in the meaning or use of a word.Compare functional shift.
  11. an expedient; ingenious device.
  12. an evasion, artifice, or trick.
  13. change or substitution.
  14. Bridge. shift bid.
  15. Agriculture. (in crop rotation)
    1. any of successive crops.
    2. the tract of land used.
  16. an act or instance of using the shift key, as on a typewriter keyboard.


  1. shift gears. gear(def 19).


  1. to move or cause to move from one place or position to another
  2. (tr) to change for another or others
  3. to change (gear) in a motor vehicle
  4. (intr) (of a sound or set of sounds) to alter in a systematic way
  5. (intr) to provide for one’s needs (esp in the phrase shift for oneself)
  6. (intr) to proceed by indirect or evasive methods
  7. to remove or be removed, esp with difficultyno detergent can shift these stains
  8. (intr) slang to move quickly
  9. (tr) computing to move (bits held in a store location) to the left or right


  1. the act or an instance of shifting
  2. a group of workers who work for a specific period
  3. the period of time worked by such a group
  4. an expedient, contrivance, or artifice
  5. the displacement of rocks, esp layers or seams in mining, at a geological fault
  6. an underskirt or dress with little shaping

v.Old English sciftan, scyftan “arrange, place, order,” also “divide, partition; distribute, allot, share,” from Proto-Germanic *skiftan (cf. Old Norse skipta “to divide, change, separate,” Old Frisian skifta “to decide, determine, test,” Dutch schiften “to divide, turn,” German schichten “to classify,” Schicht “shift”). This is said to be related to the source of Old English sceadan “divide, separate,” (see shed (v.)). c.1200 as “to dispose; make ready; set in order, control,” also intransitive, “take care of oneself.” From c.1300 as “to go, move, depart; move (someone or something), transport.” Sense of “to alter, to change” appeared mid-13c. (cf. shiftless). Meaning “change the gear setting of an engine” is from 1910; to shift gears in the figurative sense is from 1961. Related: Shifted; shifting. n.1c.1300, “a movement, a beginning,” from shift (v.). This is the word in to make shift “make efforts” (mid-15c.). Sense of “change, alteration” is from 1560s. Sense of “means to an end” is from 1520s; hence “an expedient.” Meaning “mechanism for changing gear in a motor vehicle” is recorded from 1914. Typewriter shift key is from 1893; shift-lock is from 1899. Meaning “period of working time” (originally in a mine) is attested from 1809, with older sense “relay of horses” (1708); perhaps with sense influenced by a North Sea Germanic cognate word (e.g. North Frisian skeft “division, stratum,” skaft “one of successive parties of workmen”). Similar double senses of “division” and “relay of workers” exist in Swedish skift, German schicht. n.2“body garment, underclothing,” 1590s, originally used alike of men’s and women’s pieces, probably from shift (n.1), which was commonly used in reference to a change of clothes. In 17c., it began to be used as a euphemism for smock, and was itself displaced, for similar reasons of delicacy, in 19c. by chemise. v.

  1. To move or transfer from one place or position to another.
  2. To alter position or place.
  3. To exchange one thing for another of the same type or class.


  1. A change from one person or configuration to another; a substitution.
  2. A change in position.

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