\ˈshift \
shifted; shifting; shifts

Definition of shift 

(Entry 1 of 2)

transitive verb

1 : to exchange for or replace by another : change

2a : to change the place, position, or direction of : move

b : to make a change in (place)

3 : to change phonetically

intransitive verb

1a : to change place or position

b : to change direction the wind shifted

c : to change gears

d : to depress the shift key (as on a typewriter)

2a : to assume responsibility had to shift for themselves

b : to resort to expedients

3a : to go through a change she shifted in her approach

b : to change one's clothes

c : to become changed phonetically

shift gears

: to make a change



Definition of shift (Entry 2 of 2)

1a : a means or device for effecting an end

b(1) : a deceitful or underhand scheme : dodge

(2) : an effort or expedient exerted or tried in difficult circumstances : extremity was put to hard shifts for a living— Benjamin Franklin

2a chiefly dialectal : a change of clothes

b(1) chiefly dialectal : shirt

(2) : a woman's slip or chemise

(3) : a usually loose-fitting or semifitted dress

3a : a change in direction a shift in the wind

b : a change in emphasis, judgment, or attitude

4a : a group of people who work or occupy themselves in turn with other groups

b(1) : a change of one group of people (such as workers) for another in regular alternation

(2) : a scheduled period of work or duty works the night shift

5 : a change in place or position: such as

a : a change in the position of the hand on a fingerboard (as of a violin)

b(1) : fault sense 5

(2) : the relative displacement of rock masses on opposite sides of a fault or fault zone

c(1) : a simultaneous change of position in football by two or more players from one side of the line to the other

(2) : a change of positions made by one or more players in baseball to provide better defense against a particular hitter

d : a change in frequency resulting in a change in position of a spectral line or band — compare doppler effect

e : a movement of bits in a computer register (see register entry 1 sense 9) a specified number of places to the right or left

6 : a removal from one person or thing to another : transfer

8 : a bid in bridge in a suit other than the suit one's partner has bid — compare jump

9 : gearshift

Keep scrolling for more

Other Words from shift


shiftable \ˈshif-​tə-​bəl \ adjective

Synonyms & Antonyms for shift

Synonyms: Verb

budge, locomote, move, stir

Synonyms: Noun

motion, move, movement, shifting, stir, stirring

Antonyms: Verb

freeze, still

Antonyms: Noun


Visit the Thesaurus for More 

Choose the Right Synonym for shift


resource, resort, expedient, shift, makeshift, stopgap mean something one turns to in the absence of the usual means or source of supply. resource and resort apply to anything one falls back upon. exhausted all of their resources a last resort expedient may apply to any device or contrivance used when the usual one is not at hand or not possible. a flimsy expedient shift implies a tentative or temporary imperfect expedient. desperate shifts to stave off foreclosure makeshift implies an inferior expedient adopted because of urgent need or allowed through indifference. old equipment employed as a makeshift stopgap applies to something used temporarily as an emergency measure. a new law intended only as a stopgap

Examples of shift in a Sentence


I shifted the bag to my other shoulder. She shifted her position slightly so she could see the stage better. They shifted him to a different department. He nervously shifted from foot to foot. She shifted in her seat. Public opinion has shifted dramatically in recent months. Their efforts to shift public opinion have failed. I wanted to shift the discussion back to the main point. They tried to shift the blame onto us. Their attempts at shifting attention away from the controversy seemed to be working.


There will be a shift of responsibility when she takes the new position. a shift away from tradition a gradual shift toward more liberal policies a shift in voter opinion The day shift worked overtime. The restaurant needed only one shift for lunch. He works the day shift.
See More

Recent Examples on the Web: Verb

Case in point: In September, Democrats criticized the Trump administration for shifting $10 million from FEMA's operating budget and $200 million from various parts of the Department of Homeland Security to bolster ICE’s funds. Lauren Holter, Marie Claire, "If You Care About Immigration, Here's What You Need To Know About The Midterms," 16 Oct. 2018 The pendants are embedded with color shifting RWB that emit red, white, and blue tones instead of the typical red, green, and blue. Liz Stinson, Curbed, "This high-design pendant light will keep your plants alive," 4 Oct. 2018 But with Microsoft shifting toward a subscription service model, even Microsoft seems lukewarm about Monday’s general release of Office 2019. Mark Hachman, PCWorld, "Microsoft half-heartedly announces the availability of Office 2019," 24 Sep. 2018 To that end, her campaign has shifted into transition mode. Celeste Katz, Glamour, "Rashida Tlaib Isn’t Waiting to Get to Congress to Help Other Women," 20 Sep. 2018 During the 2017 race, runners faced a barrage of shifting weather conditions, including snow, rain, and hail. Jenny Mccoy, SELF, "5 Things to Know About the 106-Mile Ultra Trail du Mont Blanc Race," 4 Sep. 2018 Some of your organs are shifted temporarily, and in rare cases, removed temporarily during delivery. Erica Gonzales, Harper's BAZAAR, "Beyoncé Opens Up About Giving Birth to Her Twins and Loving Her Post-Baby Curves," 6 Aug. 2018 The research shows that one woman is viewed ‘as a token’ but feels very limited in shifting the conversation in the work place, because her male colleagues view her as different. Emily Cassidy /, NBC News, "In the Know: Women in the news," 6 July 2018 But Belgium coach Roberto Martínez made the right move by shifting De Bruyne from the midfield up to the wing in this game and inserting Marouane Fellaini in his place in the midfield. Grant Wahl,, "Belgium Gets it Right vs. Brazil, France Shows Mettle in Reaching World Cup Semifinals," 6 July 2018

Recent Examples on the Web: Noun

That was a rhetorical signal of at least a slight shift to the center after the Reagan years. Gerald F. Seib, WSJ, "George H.W. Bush, America’s 41st President and Father of 43rd, Dies," 1 Dec. 2018 What has the shift from being a part of Fifth Harmony to a solo artist been like for you? Rachel Epstein, Marie Claire, "Lauren Jauregui Wants to Show You the Real Her," 25 Oct. 2018 BepiColombo will be able to record those distortions through the frequency shifts in radio signals traveling through space. David Grossman, Popular Mechanics, "The BepiColombo Probe Is About to Being a 7-Year Mission to Mercury," 19 Oct. 2018 But his smile quickly fades as the focus shifts to Nick, who is clearly surprised (and maybe a little disappointed or annoyed?) that his brother has finagled his way to Vietnam when Jack knew Nicky didn’t want to be there. Candice Frederick, Harper's BAZAAR, "This Is Us Season 3 Episode 4 Finally Introduces Jack's Brother Nicky," 17 Oct. 2018 In the movie, Shay plays Megan Reed, a young medical examiner working the late shift in a shadowy morgue. Andrea Park, Teen Vogue, "Shay Mitchell's New Thriller "The Possession of Hannah Grace" Releases First Trailer," 15 Oct. 2018 The rise of dockless individual transport is about a fundamental shift in inner-city transit. Carlos Waters, Vox, "Don’t blame the scooters. Blame the streets.," 18 Sep. 2018 The shift increases the number of adult Americans who have high blood pressure from a third to nearly half. Aviva Patz And Karyn Repinski, Woman's Day, "10 Natural Ways to Lower Your Blood Pressure," 20 Aug. 2018 That slight shift represents a major change in emphasis that could soon ripple through the nation’s courtrooms, bringing with it a legal recognition that pets have interests independent of their human owners. Elisa Orzac Shoenberger,, "When a marriage ends, who gets the family pet?," 13 July 2018

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'shift.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

See More

First Known Use of shift


13th century, in the meaning defined at transitive sense 1


1523, in the meaning defined at sense 1a

History and Etymology for shift


Middle English, from Old English sciftan to divide, arrange; akin to Old Norse skipa to arrange, assign

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about shift

Dictionary Entries near shift






shift bid

shift boss

Statistics for shift

Last Updated

5 Dec 2018

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for shift

The first known use of shift was in the 13th century

See more words from the same century

Keep scrolling for more

More Definitions for shift



English Language Learners Definition of shift

 (Entry 1 of 2)

: to move or to cause (something or someone) to move to a different place, position, etc.

: to change or to cause (something) to change to a different opinion, belief, etc.

: to go or to cause (something) to go from one person or thing to another



English Language Learners Definition of shift (Entry 2 of 2)

: a change in position or direction

: a change in how something is done or how people think about something

: a group of people who work together during a scheduled period of time


\ˈshift \
shifted; shifting

Kids Definition of shift

 (Entry 1 of 2)

1 : to change or make a change in place, position, or direction He … shifted his pipe away from the talking side of his mouth …— Christopher Paul Curtis, Bud, Not Buddy

2 : to go through a change Public opinion shifted in his favor.

3 : to change the arrangement of gears transmitting power (as in an automobile)

4 : to get along without help : fend I can shift for myself.



Kids Definition of shift (Entry 2 of 2)

1 : a change in place, position, or direction a shift in the wind

2 : a change in emphasis or attitude a shift in priorities

3 : a group of workers who work together during a scheduled period of time

4 : the scheduled period of time during which one group of workers is working

5 : gearshift


\ˈshift \

Medical Definition of shift 

: a change in place, position, or frequency: as

a : a change in frequency resulting in a change in position of a spectral line or band — compare doppler effect

b : a removal or transfer from one thing or place to another — see chloride shift

Keep scrolling for more

More from Merriam-Webster on shift

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with shift

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for shift

Spanish Central: Translation of shift

Nglish: Translation of shift for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of shift for Arabic Speakers

Comments on shift

What made you want to look up shift? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


to enclose within walls

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

Late Autumn 2018 Words of the Day Quiz

  • frosted-autumn-leaves
  • Which is a synonym of yahoo?
How Strong Is Your Vocabulary?

Test your vocabulary with our 10-question quiz!

Dictionary Devil

Test Your Knowledge - and learn some interesting things along the way.


Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!