adjective, shift·i·er, shift·i·est.

resourceful; fertile in expedients.
given to or full of evasions; tricky.
suggesting a deceptive or evasive character: a shifty look.

Origin of shifty

First recorded in 1560–70; shift + -y1
Related formsshift·i·ly, adverbshift·i·ness, nounun·shift·y, adjective

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

Examples from the Web for shifty

Contemporary Examples of shifty

Historical Examples of shifty

  • The shifty, ungenerous spirit of compromise awoke in Raymount.

    Weighed and Wanting

    George MacDonald

  • Eccles faced him unwillingly, with a stolid front but shifty eyes.

    The Black Bag

    Louis Joseph Vance

  • He gave an impression of dry dinginess, like rawhide, and his eyes were mean and shifty.

    Louisiana Lou

    William West Winter

  • He stared at her fixedly, his shifty eyes for once held steady.

    Louisiana Lou

    William West Winter

  • “I am that,” exclaimed the other, with a gleam of cupidity in his shifty eyes.

    The Golden Woman

    Ridgwell Cullum

British Dictionary definitions for shifty


adjective shiftier or shiftiest

given to evasions; artful
furtive in character or appearance
full of expedients; resourceful
Derived Formsshiftily, adverbshiftiness, 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 shifty

1560s, "able to manage for oneself, fertile in expedients," from shift (n.1) in secondary sense of "dodge, trick, artifice" + -y (2). Meaning "habitually using dishonest methods, characterized by trickery" first recorded 1837. In a sense "prone to shifting," of the wind, used from 1884. Related: Shiftily; shiftiness.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper