Meaning of SHIFT in English


I. ˈshift verb

( -ed/-ing/-s )

Etymology: Middle English shiften (also, to arrange, order), from Old English sciftan; akin to Old Frisian skifta, skiffa to decide, determine, test, Middle Low German schiften, schichten to divide, separate, arrange, order, Middle Dutch schichten to arrange, order, Old Norse skipta to divide, change, be of importance, Old English scēadan to divide, separate — more at shed

transitive verb

1. chiefly dialect : to apportion into shares : distribute , divide


a. : to exchange for or replace by another of the same category : change

shift tasks to vary the monotony — Stuart Chase

the clouds … were actually beginning to form very rapidly, and to shift shape from moment to moment — G.R.Stewart

shift his clothes

shift the scenery

b. chiefly dialect : to change the clothes of



(1) : to change the place, position, or direction of : move , transfer

most everything on deck had to be shifted to put the bow down — D.B.Putnam

shifted his head round again to glance at her — Walter de la Mare

the weight of the mammoth building was shifted to new foundations — American Guide Series: Pennsylvania

went forward to shift the jib — Peter Heaton

(2) : transplant

(3) : to cause (the printing position of a typewriter character) to be changed so that the character on the upper half of the key will print

b. : to make a change in (position or place)

the shortstop shifted his position as the next batter came up

unto Southampton do we shift our scene — Shakespeare


a. : to change the form or condition of : transform

different curtains and chairs — we can shift the house all around — Marcia Davenport

b. : to change phonetically especially in accordance with Grimm's law

5. archaic : avoid , escape

6. : to get rid of : dislodge

nothing less than a hot shower will shift the dirt that has caked on my skin — O.E.Middleton

7. : to put away (food or drink) : consume

I've shifted a lot in the last twenty years … not real heavy drinking — Geoffrey Household

intransitive verb


a. : to change place, location, or residence

actual farm migrants, up against it, shift from one place to another — Russell Lord

b. : to change position : move about

interrupted her by shifting heavily in his chair — Scott Fitzgerald

c. : to change direction

the trail twisted and shifted — Philip Rooney

the wind shifted to the east

d. : to make a shift on a stringed musical instrument

e. : to raise the carriage or lower the typebar segment of a typewriter by pressing a special key so that the character on the upper half of any typeface will print

f. : to shift gears



(1) : to manage by or for oneself : get along

left the cadets to shift for their own maintenance on their monthly pay of ten dollars — Herman Beukema

his uncle died a year later so he was obliged to shift for himself — W.R.Steiner

(2) : to get along badly or with difficulty : make shift

go around looking for worries to take up from other people, while their own house shifts along the best way it can — Mary Deasy

b. : to resort to evasions or fraud : make use of expedients

prompts him to shift and dissimulate — H.L.Mencken

3. archaic : to go away : depart , withdraw

let us not be dainty of leave-taking, but shift away — Shakespeare


a. : to go through a change (as in form, character, or condition) : become transformed

a voice deep, yet shifting easily to falsetto quavers — William Beebe

the situation shifted

b. : to change one's clothes

taught me to shift into a madman's rags — Shakespeare

c. : to become changed phonetically especially in accordance with Grimm's law

Synonyms: see move

- shift gears

- shift the helm

II. noun

( -s )


a. : a means or device for effecting an end

an index may or may not be a trustworthy shift for finding something — Joshua Whatmough

— compare makeshift

b. archaic : ability to contrive : resourcefulness


(1) : a deceitful or underhand scheme : dodge , fraud , trick

not amused by her shifts and her shameful deceit — C.B.Tinker

(2) : an effort or expedient exerted or tried in difficult circumstances : extremity — usually used in plural

during the air raids the staff were put to extraordinary shifts to keep the programs on the air at all — T.O.Beachcroft

2. : the act of putting one thing in place of another : something put in place of another : substitution: as


(1) chiefly dialect : a change of clothes

(2) chiefly dialect : shirt ; specifically : a long undershirt

(3) : a woman's slip or chemise


(1) : a group of people who work or occupy themselves in turn with other groups

three shifts of little citizens go to school in the same classroom each day — W.E.Goslin

(2) : a change of one group of people (as workers or students) for another in regular alternation : a scheduled period of work or duty

in a department working on shifts, the morning shift started at 6:00 A.M. — B.B.Gardner

nurses leaving their shifts at night — J.P.Browne

c. : one of the land units or successive crops in a crop rotation

d. : a change in emphasis, judgment, or attitude

small or larger shifts in fashion are a commonplace of the literary scene — Bernard De Voto

a sudden shift in values

e. : consonant shift

f. : a bid in bridge in a suit other than the suit one's partner has bid

g. : the transposition of two portions of a pack of cards in a manner designed to escape detection by an observer

h. : the character on the upper half of a typewriter type bar

the underscore is the shift of the 6

3. : a change in direction

a shift in the wind

4. : a change in place or position

he hesitated and I heard the slight sound of his shift of weight — R.P.Warren



(1) : a change in the position of the hand on the fingerboard in playing the violin or a similar musical instrument

(2) : a change in position of the movable slide of a trombone

(3) : the movement of the entire key action in a grand piano by the operation of the soft pedal so that the hammers strike only one or two strings instead of two or three


(1) : a dislocation of a mine vein or seam : fault

(2) : the relative displacement of rock masses on opposite sides of a fault or fault zone and far enough away to be unaffected by bending or other local distortion along the zone of dislocation — compare slip

c. : the disposition of members in a structure (as a building or boat) so as to separate the joints and secure strength by overlapping

d. dialect England : a change of residence


(1) : a simultaneous change of position in football especially from one side of the line to the other made by two or more players of the side in possession of the ball just before the ball is snapped

(2) : a change in position (as to the right or left) by one or more players on a baseball field for better defense against a particular hitter

f. : a change in frequency resulting in a change in position of a spectral line or band — see doppler shift , red shift

5. : a removal from one person or thing to another : transfer

a shift of responsibility

a shift of interest from natural philosophy to politics and ethics — Benjamin Farrington

6. : gearshift

Synonyms: see resource

III. noun

1. : a movement of bits in a computer register a specified number of places to the right or left

2. : the act or an instance of depressing the shift key (as on a typewriter)

Webster's New International English Dictionary.      Новый международный словарь английского языка Webster.