What does shift mean?

Definitions for shift

Here are all the possible meanings and translations of the word shift.

Princeton's WordNet

  1. shift, displacementnoun

    an event in which something is displaced without rotation

  2. transformation, transmutation, shiftnoun

    a qualitative change

  3. shift, work shift, duty periodnoun

    the time period during which you are at work

  4. switch, switching, shiftnoun

    the act of changing one thing or position for another

    "his switch on abortion cost him the election"

  5. shift, shiftingnoun

    the act of moving from one place to another

    "his constant shifting disrupted the class"

  6. fault, faulting, geological fault, shift, fracture, breaknoun

    (geology) a crack in the earth's crust resulting from the displacement of one side with respect to the other

    "they built it right over a geological fault"; "he studied the faulting of the earth's crust"

  7. shiftnoun

    a crew of workers who work for a specific period of time

  8. shift key, shiftnoun

    the key on the typewriter keyboard that shifts from lower-case letters to upper-case letters

  9. chemise, shimmy, shift, slip, teddynoun

    a woman's sleeveless undergarment

  10. chemise, sack, shiftverb

    a loose-fitting dress hanging straight from the shoulders without a waist

  11. switch, change over, shiftverb

    make a shift in or exchange of

    "First Joe led; then we switched"

  12. shift, dislodge, repositionverb

    change place or direction

    "Shift one's position"

  13. transfer, shiftverb

    move around

    "transfer the packet from his trouser pockets to a pocket in his jacket"

  14. stir, shift, budge, agitateverb

    move very slightly

    "He shifted in his seat"

  15. shiftverb

    move from one setting or context to another

    "shift the emphasis"; "shift one's attention"

  16. shiftverb

    change in quality

    "His tone shifted"

  17. shiftverb

    move and exchange for another

    "shift the date for our class reunion"

  18. careen, wobble, shift, tiltverb

    move sideways or in an unsteady way

    "The ship careened out of control"

  19. lurch, pitch, shiftverb

    move abruptly

    "The ship suddenly lurched to the left"

  20. shiftverb

    use a shift key on a keyboard

    "She could not shift so all her letters are written in lower case"

  21. shiftverb

    change phonetically as part of a systematic historical change

    "Grimm showed how the consonants shifted"

  22. shiftverb

    change gears

    "you have to shift when you go down a steep hill"

  23. switch, shift, changeverb

    lay aside, abandon, or leave for another

    "switch to a different brand of beer"; "She switched psychiatrists"; "The car changed lanes"


  1. shiftnoun

    a type of women's undergarment, a slip

    Just last week she bought a new shift at the market.

  2. shiftnoun

    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.

  3. shiftnoun

    an act of shifting; a slight movement or change

    There was a shift in the political atmosphere.

  4. shiftnoun

    the gear mechanism in a motor vehicle

    Does it come with a stick-shift?

  5. shiftnoun

    a bit shift

  6. shiftnoun

    The infield shift.

    Teams often use the shift against this lefty.

  7. shiftnoun

    The act of sexual petting.

  8. shiftverb

    To change, swap.

    His political stance shifted daily.

  9. shiftverb

    to move from one place to another; to redistribute.

    We'll have to shift these boxes to the downtown office.

  10. shiftverb

    to change position.

    She shifted slightly in her seat.

  11. shiftverb

    To change (one's clothes); also to change (someone's) underclothes.

  12. shiftverb

    To change gears (in a car).

    I crested the hill and shifted into fifth.

  13. shiftverb

    to manipulate a binary number by moving all of its digits left or right; compare rotate

  14. shiftverb

    to remove the first value from an array.

  15. shiftverb

    to dispose of.

    How can I shift a grass stain?

  16. shiftverb

    to hurry.

    If you shift, you might make the 2:19.

  17. shiftverb

    to engage in sexual petting.

  18. Shiftnoun

    A modifier key whose main function is shifting between two or more functions of any of certain other keys (usually by pressing Shift and the other button simultaneously).

    Just last week she bought a new shift at the market.

  19. Etymology: sciftan, from skiftanan. Cognate with Dutch schiften, German schichten, Norwegian skifte.

Samuel Johnson's Dictionary

  1. Shiftnoun

    Etymology: from the verb.

    She redoubling her blows, drave the stranger to no other shift than to ward and go back; at that time seeming the image of innocency against violence. Philip Sidney.

    If I get down, and do not break my limbs,
    I’ll find a thousand shifts to get away. William Shakespeare, K. John.

    This perfect artifice and accuracy might have been omitted, and yet they have made shift to move up and down in the water. Henry More, Antidote against Atheism.

    Not any boast of skill, but extreme shift
    How to regain my sever’d company,
    Compell’d me to awake the courteous echo,
    To give me answer from her mossy couch. John Milton.

    A fashionable hypocrisy shall be called good manners, so we make a shift somewhat to legitimate the abuse. Roger L'Estrange.

    Those little animals provide themselves with wheat; but they can make shift without it. Addison.

    Our herbals are sufficiently stored with plants, and we have made a tolerable shift to reduce them to classes. Thomas Baker.

    The very custom of seeking so particular aid and relief at the hands of God, doth, by a secret contradiction, withdraw them from endeavouring to help themselves, even by those wicked shifts, which they know can never have his allowance whose assistance their prayers seek. Richard Hooker.

    To say, where the notions cannot fitly be reconciled, that there wanteth a term, is but a shift of ignorance. Francis Bacon.

    Slow to resolve, but in performance quick;
    So true, that he was aukward at a trick;
    For little souls on little shifts rely. Dryden.

    Know ye not Ulysses’ shifts?
    Their swords less danger carry than their gifts. John Denham.

    As long as wit, by whetting itself, is able to find out any shift, be it never so slight, whereby to escape out of the hands of present contradiction, they are never at a stand. Richard Hooker.

    Of themselves, for the most part, they are so cautious and wily-headed, especially being men of so small experience and practice in law matters, that you would wonder whence they borrow such subtilities and sly shifts. Edmund Spenser.

    Here you see your commission; this is your duty, these are your discouragements: never seek for shifts and evasions from worldly afflictions: this is your reward, if you perform it; this your doom, if you decline it. South.

  2. To Shiftverb

    It was not levity, but absolute necessity, that made the fish shift their condition. Roger L'Estrange.

    Come, assist me, muse obedient;
    Let us try some new expedient;
    Shift the scene for half an hour,
    Time and place are in thy pow’r. Jonathan Swift.

    Pare saffron between the two St. Mary’s days,
    Or set or go shift it that knowest the ways. Thomas Tusser.

    I shifted him away,
    And laid good ’scuses on your ecstasy. William Shakespeare, Othello.

    The wisdom of all these latter times, in princes affairs, is rather fine deliveries, and shiftings of dangers and mischiefs, when they are near, than solid and grounded courses to keep them aloof. Francis Bacon.

    Neither use they sails, nor place their oars in order upon the sides; but carrying the oar loose, shift it hither and thither at pleasure. Walter Raleigh.

    Where the wind
    Veers oft, as oft she steers and shifts her sail. John Milton.

    We strive in vain against the seas and wind;
    Now shift your sails. John Dryden, Æn.

    I would advise you to shift a shirt: the violence of action hath made you reek as a sacrifice. William Shakespeare, Cymbeline.

    As it were to ride day and night, and not to have patience to shift me. William Shakespeare, Henry IV.

    The most beautiful parts must be the most finished, the colours and words most chosen: many things in both, which are not deserving of this care, must be shifted off, content with vulgar expressions. John Dryden, Dufresnoy.

    Struggle and contrive as you will, and lay your taxes as you please, the traders will shift it off from their own gain. John Locke.

    By various illusions of the devil they are prevailed on to shift off the duties, and neglect the conditions, on which salvation is promised. John Rogers, Sermons.

  3. To SHIFTverb

    Etymology: Of this word the original is obscure: skipta, Runick, is to change.

    Vegetables being fixed to the same place, and so not able to shift and seek out after proper matter for their increment, it was necessary that it should be brought to them. John Woodward.

    If the ideas of our minds constantly change and shift, in a continual succession, it would be impossible for a man to think long of any one thing. John Locke.

    She begs you just would turn you while she shifts. Edward Young.

    We cannot shift: being in, we must go on. Daniel.

    Men in distress will look to themselves, and leave their companions to shift as well as they can. Roger L'Estrange.

    Since we desire no recompence nor thanks, we ought to be dismissed, and have leave to shift for ourselves. Jonathan Swift.

    All those schoolmen, though they were exceeding witty, yet better teach all their followers to shift than to resolve by their distinctions. Walter Raleigh.

    Nature instructs every creature how to shift for itself in cases of danger. Roger L'Estrange.

Webster Dictionary

  1. Shiftverb

    to divide; to distribute; to apportion

  2. Shiftverb

    to change the place of; to move or remove from one place to another; as, to shift a burden from one shoulder to another; to shift the blame

  3. Shiftverb

    to change the position of; to alter the bearings of; to turn; as, to shift the helm or sails

  4. Shiftverb

    to exchange for another of the same class; to remove and to put some similar thing in its place; to change; as, to shift the clothes; to shift the scenes

  5. Shiftverb

    to change the clothing of; -- used reflexively

  6. Shiftverb

    to put off or out of the way by some expedient

  7. Shiftverb

    the act of shifting

  8. Shiftverb

    the act of putting one thing in the place of another, or of changing the place of a thing; change; substitution

  9. Shiftverb

    something frequently shifted; especially, a woman's under-garment; a chemise

  10. Shiftverb

    the change of one set of workmen for another; hence, a spell, or turn, of work; also, a set of workmen who work in turn with other sets; as, a night shift

  11. Shiftverb

    in building, the extent, or arrangement, of the overlapping of plank, brick, stones, etc., that are placed in courses so as to break joints

  12. Shiftverb

    a breaking off and dislocation of a seam; a fault

  13. Shiftverb

    a change of the position of the hand on the finger board, in playing the violin

  14. Etymology: [OE. shiften, schiften, to divide, change, remove. AS. sciftan to divide; akin to LG. & D. schiften to divide, distinguish, part Icel. skipta to divide, to part, to shift, to change, Dan skifte, Sw. skifta, and probably to Icel. skfa to cut into slices, as n., a slice, and to E. shive, sheave, n., shiver, n.]


  1. Shift

    Shift is the final studio album by Swedish grindcore band Nasum. It was released on October 26, 2004, by Burning Heart Records in Sweden and on Relapse Records in North America. After this album was released, Mieszko Talarczyk died during the 2004 Tsunami. This was followed by the disbanding of Nasum.

Chambers 20th Century Dictionary

  1. Shift

    shift, v.t. to change in form or character: to put out of the way: to dress in fresh clothes.—v.i. to change about: to remove: to change one's clothes: to resort to expedients for some purpose: in violin-playing, to move the left hand from its original position next to the nut.—n. a change: in violin-playing, any position of the left hand except that nearest the nut: a squad or relay of men: a contrivance: an artifice: last resource: a chemise or woman's undermost garment (orig. signifying a change of body-linen).—adj. Shift′able, capable of being shifted.—ns. Shift′er, one who shifts: a trickster; Shift′iness, the character of being shifty.—adj. Shift′ing, unstable: shifty.—adv. Shift′ingly.—adj. Shift′less, destitute of shifts or expedients: unsuccessful, for want of proper means.—adv. Shift′lessly.—n. Shift′lessness.—adj. Shift′y, full of, or ready with, shifts, contrivances, or expedients.—Shift about, to vacillate: to turn quite round to the opposite point; Shift for one's self, to provide for one's self; Shift of crops, rotation of crops; Shift off, to defer: to put away.—Make shift, to find ways and means of doing something, contrive. [A.S. sciftan, to divide, Ice. skipta.]

Dictionary of Nautical Terms

  1. shift

    In ship-building, when one butt of a piece of timber or plank overlaunches the butt of another, without either being reduced in length, for the purpose of strength and stability.--To shift [thought to be from the Anglo-Saxon scyftan, to divide]. To change or alter the position of; as, to shift a sail, top-mast, or spar; to shift the helm, &c. Also, to change one's clothes.

Military Dictionary and Gazetteer

  1. shift

    In a military sense, to change place or station. Hence, to shift quarters.

Etymology and Origins

  1. Shift

    An old name for a chemise, denoting a shift or change of linen; also an industrial term for a change of men at certain hours, so that work can be carried on uninterruptedly by day and night.

British National Corpus

  1. Spoken Corpus Frequency

    Rank popularity for the word 'shift' in Spoken Corpus Frequency: #3811

  2. Written Corpus Frequency

    Rank popularity for the word 'shift' in Written Corpus Frequency: #3387

  3. Nouns Frequency

    Rank popularity for the word 'shift' in Nouns Frequency: #1278

  4. Verbs Frequency

    Rank popularity for the word 'shift' in Verbs Frequency: #502

How to pronounce shift?

How to say shift in sign language?


  1. Chaldean Numerology

    The numerical value of shift in Chaldean Numerology is: 3

  2. Pythagorean Numerology

    The numerical value of shift in Pythagorean Numerology is: 8

Examples of shift in a Sentence

  1. Katri Hemio:

    One result surprised us . . . we found that education level did not affect the results, it seems that shift work itself strongly affects workers’ eating habits.

  2. Andrew Rosen:

    There could be a shift to value sectors like health care, it's healthy to see the recent tech pullback. There needs to be more diversification.

  3. Jon Barlow:

    It was a sellers ’ market, two years ago. And these platforms had significant power to dictate selling terms, the pendulum, I think, will shift back to the buyer.

  4. John Roland:

    The International Monetary Fund's important to realize that older populations present challenges but also opportunities, we need to shift away from the outdated stereotype that people retire and that's that, to ensuring that older people can continue to participate in society.

  5. Bill Bennett:

    I think a generation change is needed as well, both political parties could use a generation shift… We need to make that change.

Popularity rank by frequency of use


Translations for shift

From our Multilingual Translation Dictionary

  • směna, posun, posuvCzech
  • Verschiebung, Verstellung, Gangschaltung, verlagern, Shift, Hochstelltaste, Schicht, Verlagerung, Schaltung, Umschalten, Umschalttaste, Shifttaste, verschieben, verstellenGerman
  • βάρδιαGreek
  • cambio, desplazamiento, tecla mayúsculas, desviación, deslizamiento, turno, tecla shift, moverse, mover, cambiarSpanish
  • شیفت, جابه‌جا شدن, انداختن, جابه‌جا کردنPersian
  • vuoro, siirtyminen, vaihteisto, siirtyä, vaihtaa, siirto, muutos, vaihto, shift, työvuoro, muuttaa, siirtääFinnish
  • décalage, touche majuscule, roulementFrench
  • खिसक जानाHindi
  • váltás, váltó, műszak, váltHungarian
  • spostarsi, muoversi, cambio, scambiare, barattare, permutareItalian
  • משמרתHebrew
  • シフト, シフトキーJapanese
  • subcinctusLatin
  • сменаMacedonian
  • ploegendienst, ploegenstelselDutch
  • przesunięcie, zmianaPolish
  • turno, troca, câmbio, marcha, trocar, desvio, shift, mudar, moverPortuguese
  • mit'aQuechua
  • переключи́ть, сдвиг, измене́ние, [[кла́виша]] [[шифт]], перемеще́ние, [[переключе́ние]] [[передача, шифт, сме́на, передвиже́ние, смеще́ние, переключе́ние, поменя́ть, изменя́ть, перемести́ть, дви́гаться, перемеща́ться, меня́ть, измени́ть, перемеща́ть, перемести́ться, дви́гать, дви́нуться, дви́нуть, переключа́тьRussian
  • smenaSlovak
  • växla, arbetspass, pass, skift, växel, flytta, arbetsskift, skifte, byte, skifttangent, byta, skifta, ändraSwedish
  • doriaSwahili
  • మార్పు, బదిలీ, మారు, మార్చుTelugu
  • kaydırma, üst karakter tuşu, vardiya, değiştirme, vites, shift tuşuTurkish

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    based on or subject to individual discretion or preference or sometimes impulse or caprice
    • A. defiant
    • B. equivalent
    • C. arbitrary
    • D. aculeate

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