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90s Slang You Should Know


[sift] /sɪft/
verb (used with object)
to separate and retain the coarse parts of (flour, ashes, etc.) with a sieve.
to scatter or sprinkle through or by means of a sieve:
to sift sugar onto cake.
to separate by or as if by a sieve.
to examine closely:
The detectives are still sifting the evidence.
to question closely.
verb (used without object)
to sift something.
to pass or fall through or as if through a sieve.
Origin of sift
before 900; Middle English siften, Old English siftan; cognate with Dutch, Middle Low German siften; akin to sieve
Related forms
outsift, verb (used with object)
presift, verb (used with object)
resift, verb (used with object)
unsifted, adjective
4. sort, scrutinize, inspect, search, probe. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2017.
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Examples from the Web for sifting
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • On rainy days we were supposed to work in the barn, greasing harness, shelling seed-corn and “sifting” grass-seed.

    Confessions of a Neurasthenic William Taylor Marrs
  • Already a gray light was sifting into the hollow of the sky.

    Brand Blotters William MacLeod Raine
  • This was for sifting charcoal when burned, and separating the small from the larger pieces.

    Field and Hedgerow Richard Jefferies
  • Fine snow was sifting into the old camp at all the cracks and crevices.

    When Life Was Young C. A. Stephens
  • Instead of marshaling and sifting the proofs for immortality, he chants "I know I am deathless."

British Dictionary definitions for sifting


(transitive) to sieve (sand, flour, etc) in order to remove the coarser particles
to scatter (something) over a surface through a sieve
(transitive) to separate with or as if with a sieve; distinguish between
(transitive) to examine minutely: to sift evidence
(intransitive) to move as if through a sieve
Derived Forms
sifter, noun
Word Origin
Old English siftan; related to Middle Low German siften to sift, Dutch ziften; see sieve
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 sifting



Old English siftan "pass (something) through a sieve," from Proto-Germanic *sib- (cf. Dutch ziften, Middle Low German sichten, German sichten "to sift;" see sieve (n.)). Intransitive sense "to pass loosely or fall scatteredly" is from 1590s. Metaphoric sense of "look carefully through" first recorded 1530s. Related: Sifted; sifting.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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