From Middle English schiften, from Old English sċiftan (“to divide, separate into shares; appoint, ordain; arrange, organise”), from Proto-Germanic *skiftijaną, *skiptijaną, for earlier *skipatjaną (“to organise, put in order”), from Proto-Indo-European *skeyb- (“to separate, divide, part”), from Proto-Indo-European *skēy- (“to cut, divide, separate, part”). Cognate with Scots schift, skift (“to shift”), West Frisian skifte, skiftsje (“to sort”), Dutch schiften (“to sort, screen, winnow, part”), German schichten (“to stack, layer”), Swedish skifta (“to shift, change, exchange, vary”), Norwegian skifte (“to shift”), Icelandic skipta (“to switch”).
shift (countable and uncountable, plural shifts)
- (historical) A type of women's undergarment, a slip.
- Just last week she bought a new shift at the market.
- No; without a gown, in a shift that was somewhat of the coarsest, and none of the cleanest, bedewed likewise with some odoriferous effluvia, the produce of the day's labour, with a pitchfork in her hand, Molly Seagrim approached.
1762, Charles Johnstone, The Reverie; or, A Flight to the Paradise of Fools, volume 2, Dublin: Printed by Dillon Chamberlaine, OCLC 519072825, page 202:
- At length, one night, when the company by some accident broke up much sooner than ordinary, so that the candles were not half burnt out, she was not able to resist the temptation, but resolved to have them some way or other. Accordingly, as soon as the hurry was over, and the servants, as she thought, all gone to sleep, she stole out of her bed, and went down stairs, naked to her shift as she was, with a design to steal them […]
- 1919, W. Somerset Maugham, The Moon and Sixpence, chapter 47
- Some wear black shifts and flesh-coloured stockings; some with curly hair, dyed yellow, are dressed like little girls in short muslin frocks.
- A change of workers, now specifically a set group of workers or period of working time.
- We'll work three shifts a day till the job's done.
- An act of shifting; a slight movement or change.
- Sir H. Wotton
- My going to Oxford was not merely for shift of air.
- There was a shift in the political atmosphere.
2012 November 7, Matt Bai, “Winning a Second Term, Obama Will Confront Familiar Headwinds”, in New York Times:
- The generational shift Mr. Obama once embodied is, in fact, well under way, but it will not change Washington as quickly — or as harmoniously — as a lot of voters once hoped.
- (US) The gear mechanism in a motor vehicle.
- Does it come with a stick-shift?
- Alternative spelling of Shift (“a modifier button of computer keyboards”).
- If you press shift-P, the preview display will change.
- (computing) A bit shift.
- (baseball) The infield shift.
- Teams often use the shift against this lefty.
- (Ireland, crude slang, often with the definite article, usually uncountable) The act of sexual petting.
- (archaic) A contrivance, device to try when other methods fail.
- 1596, Shakespeare, History of King John
- If I get down, and do not break my limbs,
- I'll find a thousand shifts to get away:
- As good to die and go, as die and stay.
- (archaic) A trick, an artifice.
- 1593, Shakespeare, The Taming of the Shrew
- And if the boy have not a woman's gift
- To rain a shower of commanded tears,
- An onion will do well for such a shift
- Reduced to pitiable shifts.
- I'll find a thousand shifts to get away.
- Little souls on little shifts rely.
- In building, the extent, or arrangement, of the overlapping of plank, brick, stones, etc., that are placed in courses so as to break joints.
- (mining) A breaking off and dislocation of a seam; a fault.
type of women's undergarment — see slip
act of shifting
- Russian: сдвиг (ru) m (sdvig), передвиже́ние (ru) n (peredvižénije), смеще́ние (ru) n (smeščénije), измене́ние (ru) n (izmenénije), перемеще́ние (ru) n (peremeščénije)
- Spanish: cambio (es), desviación (es), deslizamiento (es), desplazamiento (es) m
- Swedish: skifte (sv) n, byte (sv) n
- Telugu: మార్పు (te) (mārpu)
- Turkish: değiştirme (tr), kaydırma (tr)
- Vietnamese: sự chuyển (vi), sự thay đổi (vi), sự giao ban
gear mechanism in a motor vehicle
shift (third-person singular simple present shifts, present participle shifting, simple past and past participle shifted)
- (transitive) To change, swap.
2012 March 1, William E. Carter, Merri Sue Carter, “The British Longitude Act Reconsidered”, in American Scientist, volume 100, number 2, page 87:
- But was it responsible governance to pass the Longitude Act without other efforts to protect British seamen? Or might it have been subterfuge—a disingenuous attempt to shift attention away from the realities of their life at sea.
- (transitive) To move from one place to another; to redistribute.
We'll have to shift these boxes to the downtown office.
2013 June 22, “T time”, in The Economist, volume 407, number 8841, page 68:
- The ability to shift profits to low-tax countries by locating intellectual property in them, which is then licensed to related businesses in high-tax countries, is often assumed to be the preserve of high-tech companies. […] current tax rules make it easy for all sorts of firms to generate […] “stateless income”: profit subject to tax in a jurisdiction that is neither the location of the factors of production that generate the income nor where the parent firm is domiciled.
- (intransitive) To change position.
She shifted slightly in her seat.
His political stance shifted daily.
- (obsolete, transitive) To change (one's clothes); also to change (someone's) underclothes.
- c. 1597, William Shakespeare, Henry IV, Part 2, Act V, Scene 5,
- As it were, to ride day and night; and […] not to have patience to shift me.
- 1621, Democritus Junior [pseudonym; Robert Burton], The Anatomy of Melancholy, Oxford: Printed by Iohn Lichfield and Iames Short, for Henry Cripps, OCLC 216894069:, II.ii.2:
- 'Tis very good to wash his hands and face often, to shift his clothes, to have fair linen about him, to be decently and comely attired […].
- (intransitive) To change gears (in a car).
I crested the hill and shifted into fifth.
- (typewriters) To move the keys of a typewriter over in order to type capital letters and special characters.
- (computer keyboards) To switch to a character entry mode for capital letters and special characters.
- (transitive, computing) To manipulate a binary number by moving all of its digits left or right; compare rotate.
Shifting 1001 to the left yields 10010; shifting it right yields 100.
- (transitive, computing) To remove the first value from an array.
- (transitive) To dispose of.
How can I shift a grass stain?
- (intransitive) To hurry.
If you shift, you might make the 2:19.
- (Ireland, vulgar, slang) To engage in sexual petting.
- (obsolete) To resort to expedients for accomplishing a purpose; to contrive; to manage.
- 1692, Roger L’Estrange, Fables of Æsop and Other Eminent Mythologists with Morals and Reflexions, London: R. Sare et al., Fable 83, Reflexion, p. 81,
- […] men in distress will look to themselves in the First Place, and leave their Companions to Shift as well as they can.
- 1743, Robert Drury, The Pleasant, and Surprizing Adventures of Mr. Robert Drury, during his Fifteen Years Captivity on the Island of Madagascar, London, p. 112,
- My Fellow-Slaves were […] as courteous to me as I could well-expect; and as they had Plantations of their own, they gave me […] such Victuals as they had; especially on dark Nights, and at such Times as I could not shift for myself.
- To practice indirect or evasive methods.
- 1614, Walter Raleigh, History of the World, London: Walter Burre, Part 1, Chapter 3, Section 7, p. 45,
- But this I dare auow of all those Schoole-men, that though they were exceeding wittie, yet they better teach all their Followers to shift, then to resolue, by their distinctions.
to move from one place to another