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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 shiftlessness
Historical Examples
  • He cannot be severely censured when their shiftlessness is borne in mind.

    Mary Wollstonecraft Elizabeth Robins Pennell
  • shiftlessness is a fine art with them, they've carried it so far.

    Jane Journeys On Ruth Comfort Mitchell
  • The same evidence of shiftlessness could be seen on every hand.

    Crooked Trails and Straight William MacLeod Raine
  • shiftlessness was one of several thousand things with which she had no patience.

    Local Color Irvin S. Cobb
  • Elim paused with an impatient snort at this exhibition of shiftlessness.

    The Happy End Joseph Hergesheimer
  • Idleness and "shiftlessness" were not merely ineffective, they were sinful.


    John Dewey and James Hayden Tufts
  • Scarcely any thing is a greater misfortune than shiftlessness.

    Cottage Economy

    William Cobbett
  • But water's not the only thing as shows their shiftlessness.

  • Labor saves us from the chaos of sloth, the pains of shiftlessness.


    Amos Bronson Alcott
  • She had needed them to combat Len's shiftlessness and slack good nature.

    Half Portions Edna Ferber
British Dictionary definitions for shiftlessness


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 shiftlessness



"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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