\ 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 4
(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

Other Words from shift


shiftable \ ˈshif-​tə-​bəl How to pronounce shift (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. See More
Recent Examples on the Web: Verb As National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Director Dr. Anthony Fauci said on CNN, that focus will have to shift. Dr. Sanjay Gupta, CNN, 31 July 2022 Justin Herron, Yasir Durant, and Yodny Cajuste each earned varying amounts of playing time in Brown’s absence last year, while Onwenu can also shift to tackle. Nicole Yang,, 30 July 2022 The financial boost is critical for these manufacturers, which are spending billions of dollars to build battery plants and shift their lineups to electric vehicles. Ryan Felton, WSJ, 30 July 2022 As a brown man with a Muslim name, the author felt perceptions shift around him despite his educated, elite status. Los Angeles Times, 30 July 2022 The next question is how many of those guards can shift over to the 3, serving as Markkanen’s backup. Chris Fedor, cleveland, 29 July 2022 The report follows a similar story from the insider who claimed Apple had to shift orders for other essential iPhone 14 parts to ensure manufacturing was on schedule. Chris Smith, BGR, 27 July 2022 La Guardia became so popular that the Port Authority had to shift all international and coast-to-coast flights across Queens to New York International Airport, which was known as Idlewild until it was renamed for President Kennedy in 1963. New York Times, 21 July 2022 The German weather service forecast the focus of the heat would shift eastward, after the country recorded the hottest day of the year so far on Tuesday, with temperatures reaching 103.1 degrees (39.5 Celsius) in the country’s west. Rachel Pannett, Washington Post, 20 July 2022 Recent Examples on the Web: Noun David Raftery, a principal with the firm, said in an interview that the changes in the development landscape wrought by COVID-19 — primarily, demand for lab space — prompted the latest shift in plans. Catherine Carlock,, 2 Aug. 2022 Aside from these practical interventions, Dr. Li believes that a wholesale shift in the rich world’s relationship with food is required. Alasdair Lane, Fortune, 1 Aug. 2022 Ex-colleagues detected a shift in Lake’s personal views toward Trump and conservative politics. Melanie Mason, Los Angeles Times, 1 Aug. 2022 Jimmy Chang, chief investment officer at Rockefeller Global Family Office, said a shift in monetary policy features prominently on his list of potential reasons to become more positive about risk assets such as stocks. Karen Langley, WSJ, 1 Aug. 2022 Having built a solid, if sometimes uninspiring, starting 11 that has progressed to the latter stages of two major tournaments, the abiding lesson of heartbreaking defeats to Italy and Croatia has been the inability to tackle a shift in momentum. Zak Garner-purkis, Forbes, 31 July 2022 In doing so, Ms. Khan upended decades of antitrust standards, potentially setting off a wholesale shift in the way Washington enforces competition across corporate America. New York Times, 28 July 2022 While hailed by many as an optimistic shift in the industry, the move has sparked tensions within the restaurant. Elena Kadvany, San Francisco Chronicle, 28 July 2022 Greene's recent comments mark an alarming shift in the public conversation about Christian nationalism. Amanda Tyler, CNN, 27 July 2022 See More

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.

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

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

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Last Updated

3 Aug 2022

Cite this Entry

“Shift.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 10 Aug. 2022.

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More Definitions for shift


\ 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

More from Merriam-Webster on shift

Nglish: Translation of shift for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of shift for Arabic Speakers


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