\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

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Other Words from shift


shiftable \ˈshif-tə-bəl \ adjective

Synonyms & Antonyms for shift

Synonyms: Verb

budge, move, stir

Synonyms: Noun

motion, move, movement, shifting, stir, stirring

Antonyms: Verb

freeze, still

Antonyms: Noun


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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.
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Recent Examples on the Web: Verb

Unlike Leach, the governor’s tone hasn’t shifted six months later. Chris Brennan,, "The left-wing uprising that led to Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez's victory in N.Y.? It happened first in Pa. | Clout," 6 July 2018 The workforce has shifted from jobs more often done by women—especially farming, where most Indian women work but are being displaced by mechanisation. The Economist, "Why India needs women to work," 5 July 2018 The dichotomy raises the unique challenge of figuring out how to manage our diet in an environment that has shifted, relatively abruptly, from scarcity to abundance. Nick Heil, Outside Online, "Blame Your Junk Food Cravings on Your Unhealthy Brain," 3 July 2018 The exact numbers, however, drive home just how much Carpenter has shifted his approach in the middle of this season. Michael Beller,, "Matt Carpenter's Hitting Resurgence is Thanks to His Increased Aggressiveness," 2 July 2018 County housing officials acknowledge the emphasis for that federal community development housing funding has shifted to an ownership rather than a rental model. Lynn Horsley, kansascity, "JoCo agency gave low-income residents a lifeline. Now it's shutting down," 1 July 2018 Georgia was a pivotal recruiting state for much of the Rich Brooks and Joker Philips eras at Kentucky, but Mark Stoops’ staff has shifted the emphasis to Ohio since taking over in 2013. Jon Hale, The Courier-Journal, "UK football finds success recruiting Georgia, deep south in 2019 class," 23 June 2018 Yet public opinion has shifted decisively toward legal weed; nationally, support for that position rose from 16 percent in 1990 to 61 percent last year, according to the Pew Research Center. Stephanie Schorow,, "What should marijuana opponents do when their cause fails? A lesson from Prohibition," 23 June 2018 But neither does Seehofer, who critics say has shifted further to the right because his heartland in south-east Germany is threatened by AFD. Billy Perrigo, Time, "Angela Merkel Is Fighting for Her Political Life. Here's What to Know," 18 June 2018

Recent Examples on the Web: Noun

But perhaps the biggest player in this shift is Rihanna, whose story of resurrection and power occurred a little bit before the world was ready to embrace it. Kathryn Lindsay,, "Why Be Engaged When You Can Be An Ex?," 13 July 2018 Kicking off last Thursday at the Commonwealth Youth Challenge, Markle surprised us all in a bright yellow shift by American designer (and former stylist to Lady Gaga) Brandon Maxwell. Chrissy Rutherford, Harper's BAZAAR, "Meghan Markle's Trusted Friend/ Stylist Advised on Her Ireland Wardrobe," 11 July 2018 Some members wondered what role Xperience Fitness, which opened in 2015 in part of the old Kmart building on Sunset Drive, has played in a membership shift. Jim Riccioli, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "Waukesha Gold's Gym members shocked by facility's impending closure: 'Where are we going to go?'," 6 July 2018 Attitudes in Georgia shift but tough laws remain On Monday, some nine weeks later, the Brills finally got their son back after a judge granted a protective order agreed upon by his parents and DFCS. Christian Boone, ajc, "Teen reunited with family after pot-smoking flap," 2 July 2018 This is perhaps in both of our lifetime the biggest shift possible in the court. Fox News, "Scaramucci on Trump's Supreme Court pick, WH staff rumors," 30 June 2018 Shaded behind second base in the shift, Marwin Gonzalez could not return to his position in time to field it. Chandler Rome, Houston Chronicle, "Rare rough showing from Astros results in loss to Rays," 29 June 2018 But in a major shift from recent years, only one senator, freshman Democrat Lauren Book of Plantation, did not draw an opponent. Steve Bousquet And David Smiley, miamiherald, "Democratic women ride wave of new candidates in Florida," 22 June 2018 Nonetheless, the balance of power in the fashion industry is undergoing a major shift. Amy Odell, The Cut, "In Fashion, Verbal Abuse Is Going Out of Style," 18 June 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.

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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

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Learn More about shift

Dictionary Entries near shift






shift bid

shift boss

Statistics for shift

Last Updated

10 Oct 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

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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

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