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[shift-lis] /ˈʃɪft lɪs/
lacking in resourcefulness; inefficient; lazy.
lacking in incentive, ambition, or aspiration.
Origin of shiftless
First recorded in 1555-65; shift + -less
Related forms
shiftlessly, adverb
shiftlessness, noun
1. slothful, careless, indolent. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018.
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Examples from the Web for shiftless
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • You're about the laziest and most shiftless man I ever came across.

    Paul Prescott's Charge Horatio Alger
  • Was she condemned to be altogether useless, shiftless, unprofitable?

    In a Little Town Rupert Hughes
  • Abner Dexter, on the other hand, was good-looking and shiftless.

  • But to have no time, no place, no order,—all going on in this shiftless way!

    Uncle Tom's Cabin Harriet Beecher Stowe
  • The village life abounds with jokers, shiftless, conscienceless and shrewd.

    Prairie Folks Hamlin Garland
  • Am I responsible for those too shiftless to fend for themselves?

  • If we are idle and shiftless by choice, we shall be nerveless and powerless by necessity.

    How to Succeed Orison Swett Marden
British Dictionary definitions for shiftless


lacking in ambition or initiative
Derived Forms
shiftlessly, adverb
shiftlessness, noun
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for shiftless

"wanting in resources or energy and ability to shift for oneself," 1580s, from shift (n.1) in the sense "resources" + -less. Related: Shiftlessly; shiftlessness.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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