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90s Slang You Should Know


[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. 2017.
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Examples from the Web for shiftlessness
Historical Examples
  • This shiftlessness was encouraged by the vast extent of unused and unoccupied domain.

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

    Mary Wollstonecraft Elizabeth Robins Pennell
  • It does him no credit to have the flag floating above a home that proclaims his shiftlessness.

    The Vitalized School Francis B. Pearson
  • Elim paused with an impatient snort at this exhibition of shiftlessness.

    The Happy End Joseph Hergesheimer
  • Such a paradox they could not understand, and therefore sank into listless indifference, or shiftlessness, or reckless bravado.

  • Idleness and "shiftlessness" were not merely ineffective, they were sinful.

    Ethics John Dewey and James Hayden Tufts
  • The eating-house, the rooms and hallways, were all of that desolate shabbiness which comes from shiftlessness joined with poverty.

    Cavanagh: Forest Ranger Hamlin Garland
  • But water's not the only thing as shows their shiftlessness.

  • This same poverty and shiftlessness you find among the peasants almost everywhere.

    The Enemies of Women Vicente Blasco Ibez
  • Labor saves us from the chaos of sloth, the pains of shiftlessness.

    Tablets Amos Bronson Alcott
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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