\ 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 Mated to a slick-shifting electronic four-speed automatic (the only transmission offered), our T-5R wagon scorched to 60 mph in just 6.7 seconds—three-tenths quicker than our last 850 Turbo wagon. Arthur St. Antoine, Car and Driver, "Tested: 1995 Volvo 850 T-5R," 18 May 2020 Another set of links directs you to each county’s COVID-19 resource page — a convenient spot to try and make sense of what seems to be a constantly shifting set of rules. John King,, "Stress-free Bay Area park outings? There’s a website for that," 15 May 2020 Studies have already linked climate change to shifting local precipitation levels. Molly Glick, Popular Science, "The Great Lakes are higher than they’ve ever been, and we’re not sure what will happen next," 15 May 2020 With any foundation-shifting initiative of this magnitude, the details are constantly evolving and changing. Mark Heim |, al, "Ladd-Peebles Stadium proposal includes name change, entertainment venue, walking trail," 14 May 2020 Laredo, which had issued 12 times the number of citations for violating stay-at-home orders as San Antonio, a city several times its size, has now significantly dialed back its enforcement in light of the shifting state direction. Sally Beauvais, ProPublica, "Texas Gov. Greg Abbott Is Cracking Down on Cities’ Enforcement of COVID-19 Orders, but Many Already Took a Lax Approach," 14 May 2020 Biden’s shifting views are representative of a broader transformation in how the Washington establishment sees China., "Biden Championed Close China Ties and Then Xi Came Along," 11 May 2020 The shoppers, too, are adjusting to the shifting reality. Lee A. Dean, The Christian Science Monitor, "Grocery store chronicles: One worker’s experience on the front lines," 11 May 2020 This time around, there's no shape-shifting shenanigans going on. Chancellor Agard,, "Sean Astin returns to Supergirl in exclusive sneak peek," 9 May 2020 Recent Examples on the Web: Noun Expect calls for unity to increase if and when the national mood shifts and support for the government dwindles. Helen Lewis, The Atlantic, "Crises Are No Time for Political Unity," 20 May 2020 More companies are pivoting their businesses as consumer habits shift amid coronavirus lockdowns, and finance chiefs are finding ways to fund the transformation. Frances Yoon, WSJ, "Coronavirus Updates: Companies Pivot as Consumer Habits Shift," 20 May 2020 In Connecticut, restaurants that reopened Wednesday for outdoor dining are required to rearrange workstations so that employees don't face one another, and stagger shifts and break times to minimize contact among them. Author: David Crary, Dave Collins, Nicole Winfield, Anchorage Daily News, "Reopening: It’s back to business, but not business as usual," 20 May 2020 All doctors have bad shifts, but now those days repeat, piling up. Jillian Mock, Scientific American, "Psychological Trauma Is the Next Crisis for Coronavirus Health Workers," 20 May 2020 So does her mother, who now works a shift starting at 3 a.m. at a Walgreens before showing up for her second job at a preschool. Joe Garofoli,, "Pandemic widens digital divide — Congress may spend billions to narrow it," 19 May 2020 Now, processors are booked months out even while running extra shifts. Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "Smaller meat processors, small farmers step into the gap as the big plants struggle," 19 May 2020 Even with that shift in policy, there have been plenty of questions for Social Security recipients who don't file tax returns. Aimee Picchi, CBS News, "Stimulus checks: Some Social Security recipients to get checks starting today," 19 May 2020 Several officers had to cover extra shifts so peers who were potentially exposed to the virus could quarantine, Keheley said. Nic Garcia, Dallas News, "Dallas County will send $72 million to cities after clashing with the state over federal coronavirus relief aid," 19 May 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

22 May 2020

Cite this Entry

“Shift.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 25 May. 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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