Middle English , from schiften Old English ( sciftan “ to divide, separate into shares; appoint, ordain; arrange, organise ”), from Proto-Germanic , *skiftijaną , for earlier *skiptijaną ( *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 ( plural ) shifts
( historical ) a type of women's undergarment, a slip
Just last week she bought a new shift at the market.
1749, Henry Fielding, , Book V, The History of Tom Jones, a Foundling chapter x
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,  , page 202: OCLC 519072825
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 “ the 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
Reduced to pitiable
I'll find a thousand
shifts to get away. Dryden
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.
Derived terms Edit
type of women's undergarment
— see slip
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 , volume 100, number 2, page 87: American Scientist
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 , volume 407, number 8841, page 68: The Economist
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.
1621, Robert Burton, , II.ii.2:
The Anatomy of Melancholy '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 […]. Shakespeare
As it were to ride day and night; and
[… ] not to have patience to shift me.
( 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. To resort to expedients for accomplishing a purpose; to contrive; to manage.
Men in distress will look to themselves, and leave their companions to
shift as well as they can. To practice indirect or evasive methods.
Sir Walter Raleigh
All those schoolmen, though they were exceeding witty, yet better teach all their followers to
shift, than to resolve by their distinctions.
Derived terms Edit
to move from one place to another