View synonyms for shift


[ shift ]

verb (used with object)

  1. to put (something) aside and replace it by another or others; change or exchange:

    to shift friends;

    to shift ideas.

    Synonyms: substitute

  2. to transfer from one place, position, person, etc., to another:

    to shift the blame onto someone else.

  3. Automotive. to change (gears) from one ratio or arrangement to another.
  4. Linguistics. to change in a systematic way, especially phonetically.

verb (used without object)

  1. to move from one place, position, direction, etc., to another.
  2. to manage to get along or succeed by oneself.
  3. to get along by indirect methods; use any expediency, trick, or evasion to get along or succeed:

    He shifted through life.

  4. to change gears in driving an automobile.
  5. Linguistics. to undergo a systematic, especially phonetic, change.
  6. to press a shift key, as on a typewriter keyboard.
  7. Archaic. to change one's clothes.


  1. a change or transfer from one place, position, direction, person, etc., to another:

    a shift in the wind.

  2. a person's scheduled period of work, especially the portion of the day scheduled as a day's work when a shop, service, office, or industry operates continuously during both the day and night:

    She prefers the morning shift.

  3. a group of workers scheduled to work during such a period:

    The night shift reported.

  4. Baseball. a notable repositioning by several fielders to the left or the right of their normal playing position, an occasional strategy against batters who usually hit the ball to the same side of the field.
  5. Automotive. a gearshift.
  6. Clothing.
    1. a straight, loose-fitting dress worn with or without a belt.
    2. a woman's chemise or slip.
  7. Football. a lateral or backward movement from one position to another, usually by two or more offensive players just before the ball is put into play.
  8. Mining. a dislocation of a seam or stratum; fault.
  9. Music. a change in the position of the left hand on the fingerboard in playing a stringed instrument.
  10. Linguistics.
    1. a change or system of parallel changes that affects the sound structure of a language, as the series of related changes in the English vowel system from Middle English to Modern English.
    2. a change in the meaning or use of a word. Compare functional shift.
  11. an expedient; ingenious device.

    Synonyms: resort, resource, contrivance

  12. an evasion, artifice, or trick.

    Synonyms: stratagem, subterfuge, ruse, wile

  13. change or substitution.
  14. Bridge. shift bid.
  15. Agriculture. (in crop rotation)
    1. any of successive crops.
    2. the tract of land used.
  16. an act or instance of using the shift key, as on a typewriter keyboard.


/ ʃɪft /


  1. to move or cause to move from one place or position to another
  2. tr to change for another or others
  3. to change (gear) in a motor vehicle
  4. intr (of a sound or set of sounds) to alter in a systematic way
  5. intr to provide for one's needs (esp in the phrase shift for oneself )
  6. intr to proceed by indirect or evasive methods
  7. to remove or be removed, esp with difficulty

    no detergent can shift these stains

  8. slang.
    intr to move quickly
  9. tr computing to move (bits held in a store location) to the left or right


  1. the act or an instance of shifting
  2. a group of workers who work for a specific period
  3. the period of time worked by such a group
  4. an expedient, contrivance, or artifice
  5. the displacement of rocks, esp layers or seams in mining, at a geological fault
  6. an underskirt or dress with little shaping
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Derived Forms

  • ˈshifter, noun
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Other Words From

  • shifting·ly adverb
  • shifting·ness noun
  • inter·shifting adjective
  • re·shift verb
  • trans·shift verb
  • un·shifting adjective
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Word History and Origins

Origin of shift1

First recorded before 1000; Middle English verb shiften “to arrange,” Old English sciftan; cognate with German schichten “to arrange in order,” Old Norse skipta “to divide”; noun derivative of the verb
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Word History and Origins

Origin of shift1

Old English sciftan; related to Old Norse skipta to divide, Middle Low German schiften, to separate
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Idioms and Phrases

  1. shift gears. gear ( def 19 ).
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Example Sentences

An emotionally wrenching marathon of hospital shifts followed.

From Vox

These shifts stand to benefit Democrats more than they benefit Republicans.

Volkswagen AG is making its green-bond debut, about two weeks after Daimler AG, as automakers tap socially responsible investors to help pay for the hugely expensive shift to electric vehicles.

From Fortune

The five-month quarantine has caused a digital shift across our way of life, leaving people to engage with the Internet, social media and technology even more—and shop.

Climate models generally show shifts in these broad patterns, though it’s not exactly clear how much the changes might translate to hurricanes themselves.

Do you think that as we get older our thoughts shift to the more abstract, the music, than the definite, the lyrics?

As Sutton shows in his book, the important shift took place gradually, from the end of the Civil War until World War II.

Most other social justice movements are seeking some shift of power and money.

Another beautiful Eminor number, with a nice shift up to the major for the chorus.

And Asians also showed a shift toward the GOP in the mid-terms.

The question was put rather testily and caused the other to shift uncomfortably before making answer.

The night shift had clocked in over an hour ago, and there should be no passing through the gate for at least six hours.

So that we were compelled to remain all the next day at the anchorage to shift them.

Then suddenly he would shift shotgun for rifle and come home with a bearskin in the wagon.

The iris of the human eye dilates and contracts with every shift of illumination, and the Time Observatory had an iris too.


Definitions and idiom definitions from Unabridged, based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2023

Idioms from The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company.