\ 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

But the economic and social trends that have long kept minority women from making job and wage gains appear to be shifting. Jeanna Smialek, New York Times, "Minority Women Are Winning the Jobs Race in a Record Economic Expansion," 1 July 2019 Being victimized in the housing context became part of that wider conversation, and public attitudes on credibility began to shift more in favor of victims. San Diego Union-Tribune, "When landlords prey on fear of eviction to coerce sex from tenants," 30 June 2019 And the longer these tariffs remain in force, the more companies think about spending to shift their supply chains — an expensive endeavor that could prohibit spending in other areas. Julia Horowitz, CNN, "US-China trade truce leaves markets with big questions," 30 June 2019 But almost all this expenditure is paid by insurers, meaning patients have no incentive to shift to lower-price providers. The Economist, "Will transparent pricing make America’s health care cheaper?," 28 June 2019 The movie, adapted by Semi Chellas from Lisa Klein’s novel, invites us to shift our perspective on Prince Hamlet (George MacKay) and to tell his tale through the eyes of Ophelia (Daisy Ridley). Anthony Lane, The New Yorker, "“Yesterday” Wants to Hold Your Hand," 28 June 2019 Experts say that would depend, in part, on how much notice Enbridge and affected oil refineries were given to shift to alternative transporters and suppliers. Paul Egan, Detroit Free Press, "Shut down Enbridge Line 5? Here are 6 things to know," 27 June 2019 Lime, for instance, announced its withdrawal from bike share in nearly all Bay Area cities in order to shift toward scooters. Maggie Angst, The Mercury News, "Mountain View to motorized scooter companies: not so fast," 26 June 2019 The Trump administration’s ban on cruise ship travel to Cuba came in early June with cruise lines having to quickly shift sailings and refund or modify existing itineraries. Richard Tribou,, "With no U.S. cruise ships, Cuba welcomes Russian warship," 26 June 2019

Recent Examples on the Web: Noun

The stateside stuff drags (the movie runs two hours, 20 minutes) but when the story shifts to Sweden, everything changes, including the light. Manohla Dargis, New York Times, "‘Midsommar’ Review: Building a Horror Møusetrap With Swedish Bait," 2 July 2019 To meet looming federal deadlines, regulators say the region must slash emissions by more than half in the next several years — a feat that will require a rapid shift to electric vehicles and other cleaner technologies. Rahul Mukherjee,, "The war on Southern California smog is slipping. Fixing it is a $14-billion problem," 1 July 2019 Yasmani Grandal led off the bottom of the inning with a bunt hit to the left side, foiling the Pirates’ infield shift to the right. Tom Haudricourt, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "Brewers 3, Pirates 1: Brandon Woodruff becomes the first 10-game winner in National League," 29 June 2019 More: Detroit auto show's shift to June a risky, bold move. Eric D. Lawrence, Detroit Free Press, "You'll still be able to see an auto show in southeast Michigan in January," 29 June 2019 That could change soon, however, as companies -- which have in the past sought to cover themselves legally by asking for the widest range of permissions -- shift to asking for only what’s necessary. Micah Singleton, Billboard, "When You Listen, They Watch: Pre-Saving Albums Can Allow Labels to Track Users on Spotify," 27 June 2019 Department store chains across the country have been trying to adapt to consumers’ shift to online shopping. Annie Zak, Anchorage Daily News, "Nordstrom will close its downtown Anchorage store," 27 June 2019 This shift to the retail side of things broadened Cottrell’s own perspective. Stacey Mckenna, azcentral, "Everyday faces of cannabis: It’s time to move past the “stoner” stereotype," 26 June 2019 Once that shift to electric cars happens, China should be in a strong position to benefit. Sherisse Pham And John Defterios, CNN, "These experts think oil demand won't peak until 2035," 24 June 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

4 Jul 2019

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 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

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