\ 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

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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

The traditional image of a memorial is an immutable tribute, literally written in stone — if also potentially susceptible to shifting views of its subject, as demonstrated by ongoing debate over Confederate statues around the American South. Washington Post, "At 9/11 memorial, new recognition for a longer-term toll," 9 Sep. 2019 Uber could send the $24.4 billion from the U.S. to the Netherlands over time as license fees use of the IP, shifting what otherwise would be profits in the U.S. to the Dutch division that wouldn't owe taxes itself. Erik Sherman, Fortune, "Uber Could Save Billions in Taxes With This Little-Noticed Move," 9 Sep. 2019 Anytime Xaverian trotted out multiple receivers, the Red Raiders would shift back to their base 4-4 defense. Nate Weitzer,, "Barnstable put it all on the line during off-season work," 8 Sep. 2019 Injuries and shifting along the offensive line might have played a role Saturday. Mike Rodak, al, "Grading Alabama’s 62-10 win over New Mexico State," 8 Sep. 2019 Cormier said residents were shifting quickly into cleanup mode in a town where storms and storms and power outages were common. John Bacon, USA TODAY, "500,000 lose power as unrelenting Dorian marches into Canada," 8 Sep. 2019 This time, with Chewins already ruled out, the Spartans learned projected left tackle starter A.J. Arcuri would miss the Tulsa game and shifted right guard Kevin Jarvis there. Chris Solari, Detroit Free Press, "Michigan State football mailbag: Fans air grievances about hapless offense," 7 Sep. 2019 Shoemaker said, shifting his attention to another must-win game on Sunday night. Dane Mizutani, Twin Cities, "St. Paul Saints stage late rally to stay alive in playoff series with RedHawks," 7 Sep. 2019 In a sweeping take, Mr Cochrane set out how academics’ understanding of the way asset prices are determined has shifted over the past half-century. The Economist, "Why yields are the best guide to future stockmarket returns," 7 Sep. 2019

Recent Examples on the Web: Noun

At the press conference, Wheeler denied that the policy shift was influenced by chemical companies. David Grimm, Science | AAAS, "U.S. EPA to eliminate all mammal testing by 2035," 10 Sep. 2019 Most of the central kitchen's 60 employees — 80% — are taking shifts at the four store locations, said Margaret Mittelstadt, Outpost's director of community relations, in an email. Sarah Hauer, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "Outpost Natural Foods lays off workers with its central kitchen still closed after positive Salmonella test," 10 Sep. 2019 But the applications don’t capture the creative shift now underway in how materials scientists consider liquids. Wired, "Unusual Fluids Flip, Twirl, and Redefine How Liquids Work," 9 Sep. 2019 That assumes someone would be willing to work a 10-minute shift. Jenny Gold, The Mercury News, "A young woman, a wheelchair and the fight to take her place at Stanford," 8 Sep. 2019 She was seen arm-in-arm with her friend actor Tommy Dorfman who was every bit the fashion partner in crime in his red knit shift dress and knee-socks. Liana Satenstein, Vogue, "Kaia Gerber Is Her Mom’s Doppelgänger in a “Bondage” Birthday Look," 7 Sep. 2019 And while President Trump lost New Hampshire by less than 3,000 votes in 2016, for the moment recent demographic shifts and state contests show the Granite state trending Democratic. Nicole Sganga, CBS News, "2020 Democratic candidates speak at New Hampshire cattle call," 7 Sep. 2019 These shifts have raised questions about how relevant expensive, occasional events are in an era when the way people shop and connect with brands has so drastically changed. Marc Bain, Quartzy, "Do fashion weeks still have a purpose?," 7 Sep. 2019 The shift into the more gnarly thriller territory of the sinister Yates and his goons becomes formulaic, its derivative neo-noir nastiness not helped by distinguished stage veteran Cullum being so miscast. David Rooney, The Hollywood Reporter, "'Jungleland': Film Review | TIFF 2019," 7 Sep. 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

17 Sep 2019

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for shift

The first known use of shift was in the 13th 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

Comments on shift

What made you want to look up shift? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


to spread over or through

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