\ ˈshift How to pronounce shift (audio) \
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)
(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

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Other Words from shift


shiftable \ ˈshif-​tə-​bəl How to pronounce shiftable (audio) \ adjective

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

Verb 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. Noun 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 How did the state go from reliably red to purple, with the possibility to shift blue in 2020, in just a decade? Taylor Seely, The Arizona Republic, "Valley 101 introduces season two of Rediscovering, this time on SB 1070," 7 July 2020 As of last week, the station that Gladstone started 26 years ago in a make-shift radio station in a small garage off Jefferson Ave and Jos Campau in downtown Detroit is no more. Rob Parker, Detroit Free Press, "Rob Parker: WDFN 'The Fan' shaped Detroit sports-talk radio, my life forever," 5 July 2020 Hamilton on film is a new plant there, one that will bloom and shift the landscape. Maureen Lee Lenker,, "The 'Hamilton' movie doesn't throw away its shot at greatness: Review," 4 July 2020 One student discloses something that happened over the weekend while his classmates shift awkwardly in their seats to see who’s talking. Jill Tucker,, "How will Bay Area classrooms work in the fall? Teachers imagine the future of school," 2 July 2020 New York City lawmakers approved an austere budget Wednesday that will shift $1 billion from policing to education and social services in the coming year. USA TODAY, "LAPD funding slashed by $150 million; money to be rerouted to community programs," 2 July 2020 The conversation will cease to be about where one works, and hopefully shift to what work is worthy of one’s time. Quartz Staff, Quartz, "Forest Young on the societal fault lines exposed by coronavirus," 30 June 2020 Coresight Research said as many as 25,000 retail stores in the United States are expected to permanently close this year as consumer demand for discretionary items stalls and more people shift to online shopping. Jordan Valinsky, CNN, "These mall staples announced thousands of store closures in June," 27 June 2020 Woodard devotes a great deal of space to developing the fascinating biographies of each of these men in short, snappy chapters that shift back and forth between all manner of confluences and coincidences, some useful and some not. Washington Post, "‘Union’ tells the origin story of the United States through 19th-century voices," 26 June 2020 Recent Examples on the Web: Noun But the coronavirus is accelerating a shift toward a cashless future, raising new calculations for merchants and enriching the digital payments industry. Liz Alderman,, "Our cash-free future is getting closer," 6 July 2020 The current developments indicate a shift toward leveraging financial pressure on Snyder, who to date has never wavered in the face of legal pressure. Mark Faller, The Arizona Republic, "Washington NFL team undergoing ‘thorough review’ of nickname as pressure to change mounts," 4 July 2020 Others will return to the United States or be deployed in the Indo-Pacific region as part of a shift of focus toward countering China. Jamie Mcintyre, Washington Examiner, "Democrats call for investigation as Trump labels reports of Russian bounties to Taliban for killing US troops possible hoax by fake news," 29 June 2020 With the shift toward younger people, some hospitals are seeing a smaller share of their COVID-19 patients needing intensive care treatment such as breathing machines. Carla K. Johnson, Tamara Lush, Anchorage Daily News, "Virus cases surge among younger Americans, endangering them and older adults they come into contact with," 25 June 2020 The film exposes the human toll wrought by a decades-long shift toward younger athletes, and harsh coaching techniques, that helped reap success but enabled abusers like Nassar. The Indianapolis Star, "What you need to know about the Netflix documentary 'Athlete A' and USA Gymnastics," 24 June 2020 Simmen attributes the shift toward building more automated, accident-free environments to the prevalence of potential paternoster calamities. Anne Quito, Quartz at Work, "Covid-19 is a problem for elevators. Is the paternoster lift the solution?," 18 June 2020 But instead of giving a financial boost to the state in the form of sales taxes, the shift toward e-commerce will instead result in an income tax cut required under state law, according to a Wisconsin Policy Forum report released Wednesday. Allison Garfield, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "Sales taxes from online shopping have soared during the pandemic, but it won't help the state's bottom line. Here's why," 17 June 2020 Also, if oil prices rise, then the shift toward EVs may heat up. Jamie L. Lareau, Detroit Free Press, "Study: GM will lose US market share as it redefines its future," 12 June 2020

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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Time Traveler for shift

Time Traveler

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

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Statistics for shift

Last Updated

9 Jul 2020

Cite this Entry

“Shift.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 14 Jul. 2020.

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More Definitions for shift


How to pronounce shift (audio)

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 How to pronounce shift (audio) \
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


\ ˈshift How to pronounce shift (audio) \

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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More from Merriam-Webster on shift

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for shift

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with shift

Spanish Central: Translation of shift

Nglish: Translation of shift for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of shift for Arabic Speakers

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