See more synonyms for sift on
verb (used with object)
  1. to separate and retain the coarse parts of (flour, ashes, etc.) with a sieve.
  2. to scatter or sprinkle through or by means of a sieve: to sift sugar onto cake.
  3. to separate by or as if by a sieve.
  4. to examine closely: The detectives are still sifting the evidence.
  5. to question closely.
verb (used without object)
  1. to sift something.
  2. 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 formsout·sift, verb (used with object)pre·sift, verb (used with object)re·sift, verb (used with object)un·sift·ed, adjective

Synonyms for sift

See more synonyms for on Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Examples from the Web for sifting

Contemporary Examples of sifting

Historical Examples of sifting

  • Do not our household servants talk of sifting, straining, winnowing?



  • The bone was formed by sifting pure smooth earth and wetting it with marrow.



  • The snow was sifting over the tundra in icy gusts from the westward.

    The Trail of a Sourdough

    May Kellogg Sullivan

  • Once again the great lone land was sifting out and choosing its own.

    The Trail of '98

    Robert W. Service

  • The occasion was crucial; the effect was that of sifting and separation.

    Jesus the Christ

    James Edward Talmage

British Dictionary definitions for sifting


  1. (tr) to sieve (sand, flour, etc) in order to remove the coarser particles
  2. to scatter (something) over a surface through a sieve
  3. (tr) to separate with or as if with a sieve; distinguish between
  4. (tr) to examine minutelyto sift evidence
  5. (intr) to move as if through a sieve
Derived Formssifter, noun

Word Origin for sift

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

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