\ 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)
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 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


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

Cultural norms regarding tattoos have shifted dramatically over the past century and a half. Caroline Hallemann, Town & Country, "Russia's Last Czar, Nicholas II, Had a Massive Dragon Tattoo," 14 July 2019 Still, the more scientific understanding of fire science has shifted firefighting from a vocation to a profession. Hillary Davis,, "Fire Chief Chip Duncan to retire after 32 years serving Newport Beach," 12 July 2019 Instead of fickle factories and Florida condos, investment has shifted to intellectual property, which now accounts for more than a quarter of the total. The Economist, "America’s expansion is now the longest on record," 11 July 2019 Central banks have shifted their focus toward interest-rate cuts in recent weeks amid lingering international trade tensions and softness in key emerging markets such as China. Tom Fairless, WSJ, "ECB Follows Fed in Signaling Fresh Stimulus," 11 July 2019 But manufacturing has shifted overseas as Taiwan’s economy has grown and overheads became more costly, echoing trends seen in more developed economies worldwide. Charlie Campbell/tianan, Time, "Foxconn Founder Terry Gou Wants to be Taiwan’s President—and a Go-Between for U.S. and China," 11 July 2019 The Thunder have very clearly shifted into asset-accumulation mode, relying on their own ability to evaluate talent going forward while creating as many chances as possible to find value through the draft. Jeremy Woo,, "Trade Grades: Thunder, Rockets Make Out Well in Russell Westbrook-Chris Paul Swap," 11 July 2019 Since then, the shade has shifted between pastel rose and vibrant lilac, captivating onlookers and even inspiring celebrities to consider a similar hair color for themselves. Marci Robin, Allure, "Here's Exactly How Megan Rapinoe Got — and Maintains — Her Incredible Hair Color," 11 July 2019 But environmental politics in Florida have shifted since Trump’s first run for the presidency in 2016, when his skepticism over the extent and causes of climate change proved immaterial in his path to electoral victory there. Michael Wilner,, "Trump makes environment pitch to Florida voters without saying ‘climate change’," 10 July 2019

Recent Examples on the Web: Noun

The accompanying video stars Terry Crews as a father in the moments after his shift at a factory in Alabama, where Howard grew up. Rania Aniftos, Billboard, "Alabama Shakes' Brittany Howard Shares New 'Stay High' Video Starring Terry Crews: Watch," 16 July 2019 In June, pro-union nurses also alleged that administration was pulling them away from their shifts to attend anti-union presentations conducted by outside professionals. Emma Keith, Detroit Free Press, "Nurses fight unionization move at Beaumont Hospital," 14 July 2019 Once El realizes that Mike is talking to another girl, her demeanor shifts. Sophie Hayssen, Teen Vogue, "'Stranger Things' Season 3 Highlights Max and Eleven's Friendship," 12 July 2019 Loofe was reported missing on Nov. 16, 2017, after failing to show up for her shift at a Lincoln, Nebraska, home improvement store. Chris Harris,, "Man Convicted of Luring Young Woman on Tinder Date, Then Strangling and Dismembering Her," 12 July 2019 Amazon regularly fires employees who fail to meet challenging quotas, which workers often need to move quickly and precisely throughout their entire shift to make. Jacob Kastrenakes, The Verge, "Amazon factory workers plan Prime Day strike in Minnesota," 8 July 2019 The Tempe Officers Association said the officers had bought their drinks and were standing together before their shift started when a barista asked them to move out of the customer’s line of sight or leave. Janelle Griffith, NBC News, "Starbucks apologizes after police officers reportedly asked to leave Arizona shop," 7 July 2019 Despite her apparent shift to the GOP, Castañeda got hired in 2010 by Dan Ramos, then the local Democratic Party chair, to run the Dems’ coordinated campaign in Bexar County. Gilbert Garcia,, "South Side activist led the charge against Harlandale superintendent," 6 July 2019 On Thursday, a customer reportedly felt unsafe when six Tempe police officers chose to drink coffee at Starbucks before their Fourth of July shift. Serena O'sullivan, azcentral, "Tempe police hope Starbucks barista asking officers to leave on Fourth of July was 'isolated incident'," 6 July 2019

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

18 Jul 2019

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for shift

The first known use of shift was in the 13th 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 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
5 : gearshift


\ 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

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).


something desired as essential

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