lacking in resourcefulness; inefficient; lazy.
lacking in incentive, ambition, or aspiration.

Origin of shiftless

First recorded in 1555–65; shift + -less
Related formsshift·less·ly, adverbshift·less·ness, noun

Synonyms for shiftless Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for shiftlessness

Historical Examples of shiftlessness

  • 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

British Dictionary definitions for shiftlessness



lacking in ambition or initiative
Derived Formsshiftlessly, adverbshiftlessness, 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

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