\ 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

Keep scrolling for more

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.
See More
Recent Examples on the Web Officials sifted through hours of footage and found video of the camera being set up, allowing them to identify Jensen as a suspect. Daily Pilot, "H.B. man pleads no contest to planting camera in bathrooms at Rancho Palos Verdes City Hall, coffee house," 21 Aug. 2019 Often there would be forty kids running around the area—washing pottery, sifting buckets, and pounding the earth with hoes and pickaxes. Rachel Poser, Harper's magazine, "Common Ground," 19 Aug. 2019 Last month, AlphaSense, a startup that sells its service to hedge funds and financial analysts, introduced technology that sifts though documents to determine the tenor of their language. Fortune, "Investors Seek an Edge By Using Technology That Reads Between the Lines," 21 July 2019 One team, who sifted through Palomar images of 16 older supernovas, spotted minor flashes at five of them during the months immediately before detonation. Quanta Magazine, "Lucky Break Leads to Controversial Supernova Discovery," 5 July 2017 As residents sifted through the damage Wednesday, officials investigated why only some of the city's outdoor warning sirens went off. Joe Sutton, CNN, "Sioux Falls buildings are shredded by a tornado as the mayor cites 'human error' for siren mishap," 11 Sep. 2019 Constantly learning from those interactions in real time, while also sifting through oceans of internal data, the system then offers suggestions to the human agent, who can quickly apply the relevant knowledge to the customer's question. Anne Fisher, Fortune, "‘You’re Pretty Stupid.’ What Can Happen to Your Business When A.I. Goes Awry," 10 Aug. 2019 Using new high-precision starlight-sifting instruments, researchers are gearing up for even more subtle searches there. Corey S. Powell, Scientific American, "The Hunt Is on for Alpha Centauri’s Planets," 5 Aug. 2019 The next few weeks will be crucial, as prospects take in interest from new suitors after the evaluation period and sift through their lists. Orion Sang, Detroit Free Press, "Michigan's Juwan Howard has attention of top prospects. Here's his challenge," 14 July 2019

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.

See More

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

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about sift

Statistics for sift

Last Updated

1 Nov 2019

Time Traveler for sift

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

See more words from the same century

Keep scrolling for more

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

Keep scrolling for more

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

Comments on sift

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


to spread as a report or rumor

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

Confusing Words—A Quiz

  • alice with tweedle dee and tweedle dum
  • I invented a brand new toaster robot and ______ it "Sir Toasts-a-Lot."
Spell It

Can you spell these 10 commonly misspelled words?

Bee Cubed

Test Your Knowledge - and learn some interesting things along the way.

Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!