\ ˈsift How to pronounce sift (audio) \
sifted; sifting; sifts

Definition of sift

transitive verb

1a : to put through a sieve sift flour
b : to separate or separate out by or as if by putting through a sieve
2 : to go through especially to sort out what is useful or valuable sifted the evidence often used with throughsift through a pile of old letters
3 : to scatter by or as if by sifting sift sugar on a cake

intransitive verb

1 : to use a sieve
2 : to pass or fall as if through a sieve

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Other Words from sift

sifter noun

Examples of sift in a Sentence

Sift the flour into a mixing bowl. Sift the lumps from the sugar. The police sifted the evidence in hopes of finding a clue. The police sifted for clues. The lawyer sifted through the hundreds of pages of testimony. Firefighters sifted through the debris.
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Recent Examples on the Web However, composing messages on a device is an arduous task of sifting through alphabet letters to create words. Ben Romans, Field & Stream, "Great Survival Gift Ideas for 2019," 22 Nov. 2019 While travelers have been maneuvering that mess, reporter Jon Murray has been sifting through hundreds of pages of claims to figure out what went wrong in the split with the first set of contractors. The Denver Post, "Post Premium: Our best stories for the week of Nov. 11 – 17," 17 Nov. 2019 Since then, police have been sifting through about 230 tons of trash in the landfill. Madeline Holcombe, CNN, "Remains found in a landfill identified as a missing South Carolina 5-year-old," 23 Oct. 2019 And the act of sifting through all that content to figure out what’s worth watching can be exhausting. Adam Epstein, Quartzy, "All the best TV we’re watching this fall," 5 Oct. 2019 The harder, and more rewarding, work is to sift through the debris, to surrender to it, and to wait for insight to emerge. Katy Waldman, The New Yorker, "Can One Sentence Capture All of Life?," 6 Sep. 2019 State police detectives have been sifting through garbage in Hartford looking for other clues and leads into Jennifer Farber Dulos’ May 24 disappearance. Rebecca Lurye,, "Police return to Hartford trash plant Saturday in search for missing New Canaan mother Jennifer Farber Dulos," 8 June 2019 The team’s job is to sift through paper and digital documents and decide which ones are protected and which ones prosecutors can use. Jacob Gershman, WSJ, "The Michael Cohen Case Explained," 18 Apr. 2018 Some blanket neighborhoods with their appeals, while others take a more surgical approach, sifting through public records to find and target vulnerable homeowners. Madison Iszler,, "In fast-changing San Antonio neighborhoods, homeowners flooded with offers from investors," 16 Jan. 2020

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'sift.' 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 sift

before the 12th century, in the meaning defined at transitive sense 1a

History and Etymology for sift

Middle English, from Old English siftan; akin to Old English sife sieve

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Time Traveler for sift

Time Traveler

The first known use of sift was before the 12th century

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Statistics for sift

Last Updated

8 Feb 2020

Cite this Entry

“Sift.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 21 Feb. 2020.

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More Definitions for sift


How to pronounce sift (audio)

English Language Learners Definition of sift

: to put (flour, sugar, etc.) through a sifter or sieve
: to separate or remove (something) by using a sifter or sieve
: to go through (something) very carefully in order to find something useful or valuable


\ ˈsift How to pronounce sift (audio) \
sifted; sifting

Kids Definition of sift

1 : to pass or cause to pass through a sieve sift flour
2 : to separate or separate out by or as if by passing through a sieve I sifted the lumps.
3 : to test or examine carefully Police will sift through the evidence.

Other Words from sift

sifter noun

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More from Merriam-Webster on sift

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with sift

Spanish Central: Translation of sift

Nglish: Translation of sift for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of sift for Arabic Speakers

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