\ 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 Bond prices fell Friday, pushing yields higher, a signal that investors were shifting away from safe-play holdings. Alex Veiga,, "Amid many market milestones, Dow tops 28,000," 15 Nov. 2019 That led to higher prices; firms like Intel have even begun shifting supply chains away from China. Grady Mcgregor, Fortune, "China Has Always Trailed the U.S. in Chipmaking. In the Trade War Era, Will It Finally Catch Up?," 15 Nov. 2019 Altria, the maker of Marlboro cigarettes and Copenhagen chew, has been working to shift its business away from traditional tobacco amid steady declines in smoking. Matthew Perrone,, "Altria takes a $4.5 billion hit on Juul amid vaping backlash," 14 Nov. 2019 By contrast, others have expressed concern that shifting away from this approach could affect social influencers' ability to make money off their huge followings. Irina Ivanova, CBS News, "Instagram hiding "like" counts in worldwide test," 14 Nov. 2019 Apache Corporation EOG Resources Source: Railroad Commission of Texas Houston oil and natural gas company Apache Corp. continues to shift away from its Alpine High discovery in the western end of the Permian Basin. Sergio Chapa, Houston Chronicle, "Wildcatter billionaire not giving up Permian Basin without a fight," 11 Nov. 2019 Solis has seen how changes in the economy have caused Ohio's population to shift toward the center of the state and Columbus, and away from Cleveland and the industrial towns in northeast Ohio. Fox News, "Ohio facing troubling trends when it comes to prep football," 5 Nov. 2019 At the time, Altria, hurting from a decline in smoking, saw Juul as a way to shift its business away from traditional cigarettes., "The tobacco giant Altria Group said Thursday that it had devalued its investment in the vaping company Juul Labs by $4.5 billion, a move that reflects deepening turmoil in the electronic cigarette industry.," 1 Nov. 2019 Moving from one position to another isn’t a novel concept at UCF; defensive linemen Kalia Davis and Stephon Zayas are converted linebackers and graduate transfer quarterback Brandon Wimbush was shifted to wide receiver last month. Brian Murphy,, "UCF senior Chris DeLoach thrives after switching from tight end to defensive end," 23 Oct. 2019 Recent Examples on the Web: Noun Brauer notes the shift from carburetors to fuel injectors made for simpler mechanics—and fewer hours of work on each vehicle. Wired, "The Shift to Electric Vehicles Propels a Strike Against GM," 17 Sep. 2019 In August, Moody’s Investor Service downgraded its outlook for the North American coal industry to negative from stable, citing declining demand on the international market and the shift to gas and renewable energy in the United States. Michael Hawthorne,, "Another Illinois coal plant is closing — the fifth announced in a month," 16 Sep. 2019 When discussing the transition from the Golden Age to Peak TV, critics tend to focus on the shift in viewing habits brought on by the ascent of streaming as the primary method of television consumption. Adam Wilson, Harper's magazine, "Good Bad Bad Good," 16 Sep. 2019 The Florence offense responded to the momentum shift by driving 75 yards in eight plays, capped off by Beckwith’s 18-yard scamper that extended the lead to 35-17. Reports, al, "Dee Beckwith scores 4 TDs as Florence runs past Bob Jones," 14 Sep. 2019 The notable shift to services (including Apple Arcade and the aforementioned Apple TV+) shows the company isn't just a one-trick pony. Anne Sraders, Fortune, "Bull vs. Bear: Will Apple’s New Streaming Service Mean Upside for Investors?," 11 Sep. 2019 Agency officials have said that the shift away from animal experiments won’t limit chemical regulation or reduce public safety. Jeff Tollefson, Scientific American, "Scientists Concerned Over U.S. Environment Agency’s Plan to Limit Animal Research," 11 Sep. 2019 Just a quarter past noon, the second shift of volunteers, who started around 11 a.m., had already packed 36,000 meals., "9/11 brings out the best in Bay Area volunteers packing meals for needy," 11 Sep. 2019 No one has been getting rich stuffing their money into a savings account and it's bound to get even tougher, as the Federal Reserve shifts further into a rate cutting mode. Susan Tompor, Detroit Free Press, "How do you make more money when the Fed cuts rates?," 11 Sep. 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

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

21 Nov 2019

Cite this Entry

“Shift.” The Dictionary, Merriam-Webster Inc., Accessed 21 November 2019.

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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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