shift

1 of 2

verb

shifted; shifting; shifts

transitive verb

1
: to exchange for or replace by another : change
2
a
: to change the place, position, or direction of : move
b
: to make a change in (place)
3
: to change phonetically

intransitive verb

1
a
: 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)
2
a
: to assume responsibility
had to shift for themselves
b
: to resort to expedients
3
a
: to go through a change
she shifted in her approach
b
: to change one's clothes
c
: to become changed phonetically
shiftable adjective

shift

2 of 2

noun

1
a
: 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
2
a
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
3
a
: a change in direction
a shift in the wind
b
: a change in emphasis, judgment, or attitude
4
a
: 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)
(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
7
8
: a bid in bridge in a suit other than the suit one's partner has bid compare jump
9
Phrases
shift gears
: to make a change
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

Example Sentences

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
One idea is for countries to simply shift their time zones by one hour at some point, effectively wiping out the astronomical misalignment in one fell swoop. Darren Orf, Popular Mechanics, 29 Nov. 2022 People who transition, and who come out, and who decide to shift their gender presentation know what Debré means. Alexis Okeowo, The New Yorker, 28 Nov. 2022 States will continue to shift their political allegiance at roughly the pace of continental drift. Walter Shapiro, The New Republic, 28 Nov. 2022 Ukrainian success on the battlefield has forced Moscow to shift its war objectives. Laurence Norman, WSJ, 27 Nov. 2022 In the drug world, this was a modest step up — from day laborer to shift supervisor. Selam Gebrekidan, New York Times, 27 Nov. 2022 Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov also sought to shift blame for civilian hardship on Ukraine’s government. John Leicester, Hanna Arhirova, Sam Mednick, Anchorage Daily News, 25 Nov. 2022 Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov sought Thursday to shift blame for civilian hardship on Ukraine’s government. John Leicester And Hanna Arhirova, Chicago Tribune, 24 Nov. 2022 But by the 1960s, that had begun to shift, Andrews said. Leah Asmelash, CNN, 24 Nov. 2022
Noun
Jeffries, along with Clark, 59; and Aguilar, 43, mark a generational shift to House Democrats' top spots. Rachel Scott, ABC News, 30 Nov. 2022 At the same time, there’s little prospect of a Franklin Roosevelt-style shift to redistribution, worker power and industrial policy with a political system now balanced close to 50-50 at every election and fiercely partisan. James Mackintosh, WSJ, 29 Nov. 2022 And with the pandemic-era shift to mail-in ballots being sent to every eligible voter, roughly 80% of votes were cast that way, the county reported. James Rainey, Los Angeles Times, 25 Nov. 2022 The shift to a low-carbon economy can add trillions of dollars to global growth each year, and create millions of jobs. Bypaul Polman, Fortune, 24 Nov. 2022 The streamer’s first Knives Out sequel, Glass Onion, opens Nov. 23 in 600-plus theaters for a monthlong run before a Dec. 23 shift to digital. Mikey O'connell, The Hollywood Reporter, 22 Nov. 2022 After the shift to WFH, 52% of employees report craving more connections at work. Dan Manian And Essence Wagstaff, Quartz, 21 Nov. 2022 The track eventually takes a sonic shift to a minimal hip-hop production once the beat drops for Gaeko’s rap section before slowly returning to its vintage sound and one final key change and epic chorus. Jeff Benjamin, Billboard, 21 Nov. 2022 Michigan, for instance, could accelerate the shift to electric vehicles. Denise Chow, NBC News, 19 Nov. 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.

Word History

Etymology

Verb

Middle English, from Old English sciftan to divide, arrange; akin to Old Norse skipa to arrange, assign

First Known Use

Verb

13th century, in the meaning defined at transitive sense 1

Noun

1523, in the meaning defined at sense 1a

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

Dictionary Entries Near shift

Cite this Entry

“Shift.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/shift. Accessed 8 Dec. 2022.

Kids Definition

shift

1 of 2 verb
1
: to exchange for another of the same kind
2
a
: to change the place, position, or direction of
b
: to make a change in place, position, or direction
the wind shifted
c
: to change the gear rotating the transmission shaft of an automobile
3
: to get along without help : fend
left the others to shift for themselves

shift

2 of 2 noun
1
: a means or device for getting something done
2
3
: the act of shifting
4
: a group of workers who work together during a scheduled period of time
also : the period of time during which they work
5

Medical Definition

shift

noun
: 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

Last Updated: - Updated example sentences
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