shift·​less ˈshif(t)-ləs How to pronounce shiftless (audio)
: lacking in resourcefulness : inefficient
: lacking in ambition or incentive : lazy
shiftless freeloaders
shiftlessly adverb
shiftlessness noun

Examples of shiftless in a Sentence

shiftless spongers who never thought to do anything for themselves
Recent Examples on the Web Gill’s benevolent steadfastness is supported by his loving, tolerant wife (Shailene Woodley) but mocked by his shiftless brother (a very funny Pete Davidson), who urges him to cash in. Robert Abele, Los Angeles Times, 15 Sep. 2023 The filmmaker wrote, directed, shot, edited, and starred in this essentially plotless Super 16 slice-of-life about a shiftless Austin dude who couch surfs across the state. A.a. Dowd, Chron, 4 Apr. 2023 But eventually the smart lower class people will have descendants who are in the upper class, while the shiftless upper class individuals of earlier generations will have descendants who move down the class hierarchy after exhausting their inheritances. Razib Khan, Discover Magazine, 24 June 2012 Their anger focused on a faceless government that neglected people like them and on supposedly shiftless immigrants and minorities who feasted at the public trough. Helen Epstein, The New York Review of Books, 10 Mar. 2020 Stereotypes of unemployed, shiftless man-children playing X-Box in their parents’ basement aren’t really borne out by the data. Matt Levin, The Mercury News, 27 Aug. 2019 Among them was Boy (2010), a poignant coming-of-age dramedy about a kid whose obsession with Michael Jackson offers him an escape from dealing with his shiftless father. Aja Romano, Vox, 31 Oct. 2018 Last year, Buffalo Wild Wings expressed concern about millennials, and what those shiftless kids could do to the chicken-wing-and-plasma-screen trade. Jason Gay, WSJ, 13 Aug. 2018 Or the shiftless pool man whose slide into despair seems to parallel the fires and mudslides that are chewing up the hills around him. Steve Marble,, 24 Jan. 2018

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'shiftless.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History


shift (resourcefulness)

First Known Use

1584, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Time Traveler
The first known use of shiftless was in 1584

Dictionary Entries Near shiftless

Cite this Entry

“Shiftless.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 18 Apr. 2024.

Kids Definition


shift·​less ˈshif(t)-ləs How to pronounce shiftless (audio)
: lacking in ambition : lazy
shiftlessly adverb
shiftlessness noun

More from Merriam-Webster on shiftless

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