• (RP, GA, CA) enPR: shĭft, IPA: /ʃɪft/
  • (Canada)


  1. (historical) A type of women's undergarment, a slip.
    Just last week she bought a new shift at the market.
    • 1749, Henry Fielding, chapter X, in The History of Tom Jones, a Foundling. In Six Volumes, volume (please specify ), London: Printed by A[ndrew] Millar, […], OCLC 928184292 ↗, book V:
    • 1919, W. Somerset Maugham, The Moon and Sixpence, chapter 47
      Some wear black shifts and flesh-coloured stockings; some with curly hair, dyed yellow, are dressed like little girls in short muslin frocks.
  2. A change of workers, now specifically a set group of workers or period of working time.
    We'll work three shifts a day till the job's done.
  3. An act of shifting; a slight movement or change.
    There was a shift in the political atmosphere.
    • My going to Oxford was not merely for shift of air.
  4. (US) The gear mechanism in a motor vehicle.
    Does it come with a stick-shift?
  5. Alternative spelling of Shift.
    If you press shift-P, the preview display will change.
  6. (computing) A bit shift.
  7. (baseball) The infield shift.
    Teams often use the shift against this lefty.
  8. (Ireland, crude slang, often with the definite article, usually uncountable) The act of kissing passionately.
  9. (archaic) A contrivance, a device to try when other methods fail.
    • 1596, Shakespeare, History of King John
      If I get down, and do not break my limbs,
      I'll find a thousand shifts to get away:
      As good to die and go, as die and stay.
  10. (archaic) A trick, an artifice.
    • 1593, Shakespeare, The Taming of the Shrew
      And if the boy have not a woman's gift
      To rain a shower of commanded tears,
      An onion will do well for such a shift
    • 1911, Thomas Babington Macaulay, “[,_Oliver Goldsmith, Oliver]”, in 1911 Encyclopædia Britannica:
      Reduced to pitiable shifts.
    • c. 1596, William Shakespeare, “The Life and Death of King Iohn”, in Mr. William Shakespeares Comedies, Histories, & Tragedies: Published According to the True Originall Copies (First Folio), London: Printed by Isaac Iaggard, and Ed[ward] Blount, published 1623, OCLC 606515358 ↗, [Act IV, scene iii]:
      I'll find a thousand shifts to get away.
    • Little souls on little shifts rely.
  11. (construction) The extent, or arrangement, of the overlapping of plank, brick, stones, etc., that are placed in courses so as to break joints.
  12. (mining) A breaking off and dislocation of a seam; a fault.
  13. (genetics) A mutation in which the DNA or RNA from two different sources (such as viruses or bacteria) combine.
  14. (music) In violin-playing, any position of the left hand except that nearest the nut.
Translations Translations Translations Translations
  • French: touche majuscule
  • German: Umschalten, Shift, Shifttaste, Umschalttaste, Hochstelltaste
  • Portuguese: shift
  • Russian: шифт
  • Spanish: tecla shift, tecla mayúsculas

shift (shifts, present participle shifting; past and past participle shifted)

  1. (transitive, sometimes, figurative) To move from one place to another; to redistribute.
    We'll have to shift these boxes to the downtown office.
  2. (transitive, figurative) To change in form or character; swap.
    • 2008, June Granatir Alexander, ‎Ethnic Pride, American Patriotism (page ix)
      As a result, I shifted my approach to focus on group-generated activities and broadened the chronological time frame.
  3. (intransitive) To change position.
    She shifted slightly in her seat.
    His political stance shifted daily.
  4. (intransitive, India) To change residence; to leave and live elsewhere.
    We are shifting to America next month.
    Synonyms: move
  5. (obsolete, ambitransitive) To change (one's clothes); also to change (someone's) underclothes.
    • c. 1597, William Shakespeare, Henry IV, Part 2, Act V, Scene 5,
      As it were, to ride day and night; and […] not to have patience to shift me.
    • 1624, Democritus Junior [pseudonym; Robert Burton], The Anatomy of Melancholy: […], 2nd edition, Oxford, Oxfordshire: Printed by John Lichfield and James Short, for Henry Cripps, OCLC 54573970 ↗:
      , II.ii.2:
      'Tis very good to wash his hands and face often, to shift his clothes, to have fair linen about him, to be decently and comely attired […].
  6. (intransitive) To change gears (in a car).
    I crested the hill and shifted into fifth.
  7. (typewriters) To move the keys of a typewriter over in order to type capital letters and special characters.
  8. (computer keyboards) To switch to a character entry mode for capital letters and special characters.
  9. (transitive, computing) To manipulate a binary number by moving all of its digits left or right; compare rotate.
    Shifting 1001 to the left yields 10010; shifting it right yields 100.
  10. (transitive, computing) To remove the first value from an array.
  11. (transitive) To dispose of.
    How can I shift a grass stain?
  12. (intransitive) To hurry.
    If you shift, you might make the 2:19.
  13. (Ireland, vulgar, slang) To engage in sexual petting.
  14. (archaic) To resort to expedients for accomplishing a purpose; to contrive; to manage.
    • 1692, Roger L'Estrange, Fables of Æsop and Other Eminent Mythologists with Morals and Reflexions, London: R. Sare et al., Fable 83, Reflexion, p. 81,
      […] men in distress will look to themselves in the First Place, and leave their Companions to Shift as well as they can.
    • 1743, Robert Drury (sailor), The Pleasant, and Surprizing Adventures of Mr. Robert Drury, during his Fifteen Years Captivity on the Island of Madagascar, London, p. 112,
      My Fellow-Slaves were […] as courteous to me as I could well-expect; and as they had Plantations of their own, they gave me […] such Victuals as they had; especially on dark Nights, and at such Times as I could not shift for myself.
  15. To practice indirect or evasive methods.
    • 1614, Walter Raleigh, History of the World, London: Walter Burre, Part 1, Chapter 3, Section 7, p. 45,
      But this I dare auow of all those Schoole-men, that though they were exceeding wittie, yet they better teach all their Followers to shift, then to resolue, by their distinctions.
  16. (music) In violin-playing, to move the left hand from its original position next to the nut.
Synonyms Antonyms Translations Translations Translations
  • Portuguese: mover
  • Russian: перемеща́ться
  • Spanish: moverse

shift (plural shifts)

  1. (computing) A modifier key whose main function is shifting between two or more functions of any of certain other keys (usually by pressing Shift and the other button simultaneously).

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