Definition of shift in US English:



  • 1Move or cause to move from one place to another, especially over a small distance.

    with object ‘I shift the weight back to the other leg’
    no object ‘the roof cracked and shifted’
    • ‘Twenty years ago, there would have been hundreds of men touching and molding and shifting and moving the steel.’
    • ‘The train shifted and began moving, silent, except for the hum of the generators that kept the lights going.’
    • ‘And the aisle all the way to the door bustled with Adivasi vegetable vendors who squatted with their baskets shifting and moving till they found a comfort zone.’
    • ‘After the system is docked, the nurse reassesses the patient's position to ensure that nothing moved or shifted during transfer.’
    • ‘Malachi laughed softly somewhere behind me, and the truck bed shifted again under his weight as he moved once more.’
    • ‘I invite the Minister to name one thing in that purpose that will do anything to get the bulldozers moving and the dirt shifted to build a road in Auckland.’
    • ‘A portion of the wall shifted and moved under her hand, and then the grotto was filled with the loud grinding sound of stone against stone and something more.’
    • ‘Velmon started down at the fire silently, watching the way the ash shifted and moved.’
    • ‘Soon the wall shifted and moved to open to a gigantic laboratory.’
    • ‘Tossing the rag into the sink, she picked James up from his high chair and shifted him onto her hip.’
    • ‘It rolled slowly, jerkily, as if things inside were shifting around as it moved.’
    • ‘Her glittering, purple singlet top shifted as she moved her graceful arms, revealing the skin of her taut stomach.’
    • ‘Their surprised yelps sounded as one as the cushions moved and shifted under them.’
    • ‘So things are once again in a state of rearrangement in my humble apartment, getting shifted, moved around and reassigned.’
    • ‘The animal, which was unable to move, was shifted to a nearby coconut plantation and from there to its owner's timber depot.’
    • ‘Outside the viewport the great ships began to move, shifting apart as they prepared for transit into slip-space.’
    • ‘The light reflected, shifted, moved a little farther away.’
    • ‘Suddenly the boat shifted and moved throwing her to her knees and almost knocking Wes into the water.’
    • ‘In a long jump, in theory, the weights could be shifted mid-jump to alter the jumper's centre of mass and make the most of the extra momentum.’
    • ‘The sands in front of the figure moved and shifted.’
    move, carry, transfer, transport, convey, take, bring, bear, lug, cart, haul, fetch, switch, move around, transpose, relocate, reposition, rearrange, displace
    move, slide, slip, move around, be displaced
    View synonyms
    1. 1.1no object Change the position of one's body, especially because one is nervous or uncomfortable.
      ‘he shifted a little in his chair’
      • ‘Gabrielle shifted in her position and stared down at her shoes like a guilty girl.’
      • ‘A wolf howled off in the distance, and Raiana shifted in her seat, waiting to reach home.’
      • ‘Brant shifted uncomfortably, obviously nervous about the gun still pointed directly at him and he began to lower his hands.’
      • ‘He shifted as though uncomfortable and studied the landscape behind me.’
      • ‘He shifts to a position where he's facing Melissa's face.’
      • ‘Michael and Jessica were shifting uncomfortably and nervously, unsure of what to do.’
      • ‘Ian shifted on his feet uncomfortably but did not speak.’
      • ‘I shifted uncomfortably in my position on a plastic covered sofa.’
      • ‘I shifted uncomfortably on my feet and looked down at the ground.’
      • ‘Jorenae shifted, becoming more nervous by the second.’
      • ‘Have a sitting patient shift his or her weight every 15 minutes, or reposition the patient in the chair every hour.’
      • ‘He sighed, and shifted in the uncomfortable chair.’
      • ‘One would ordinarily shift from a physical position which grows increasingly uncomfortable, but the meditator does not.’
      • ‘Arial shifted uncomfortably from one foot to the other.’
      • ‘She shifted, uncomfortable all of a sudden and unsure of his meaning.’
      • ‘He shifts, moving the arm away from his face, and bringing it up over his head, to rest on the pillow behind him.’
      • ‘He shifts into lotus position in his chair, tucking both feet beneath him and riffling quickly through his magazine, which is abnormally thick.’
      • ‘He carefully shifted his weight and moved off of the bed, casting a quick glance across his back to assure himself that he hadn't stirred his wife.’
      • ‘She felt uncomfortable, shifting under the gaze of the old woman, which seemed to bore right through her.’
      • ‘I shifted uncomfortably from one foot to another.’
      change, alter, adjust, make adjustments to, adapt, amend, recast, vary, modify, revise, reverse, retract, do a u-turn on, row back
      View synonyms
    2. 1.2with object Change the emphasis, direction, or focus of.
      ‘she's shifting the blame onto me’
      • ‘In fact, McDonald argued that tobacco companies have begun to shift their focus onto young adults.’
      • ‘The way in which the senior consultant dealt with his junior doctor was helpful in that it shifted the focus onto what could be learnt from the error.’
      • ‘Maybe the emphasis should be shifted from the initiation of activism to its consequences.’
      • ‘During Intel's growth spurt, the New Mexico team shifted some of its focus to group mentoring, where one manager helps a small group of new recruits.’
      • ‘Over the course of the year focus will be shifted to other areas of crime in the hope of achieving similar results.’
      • ‘Some fear that the scheme might shift liability towards consumer in cases of disputed transactions.’
      • ‘Wanting to keep the subject off of myself, I shifted the focus onto Ryan.’
      • ‘Treasury Holdings is to shift some of its focus away from commercial projects and into the construction of high density residential schemes.’
      • ‘The economic culture in particular was shifted significantly in the direction of enterprise.’
      • ‘We can expect to see a push for more of the tax burden to be shifted onto employers.’
      • ‘The fiscal burden has been shifted off property owners onto labor.’
      • ‘The burden of these high prices is being shifted onto the backs of consumers and homeowners, especially those least able to pay the larger bills.’
      • ‘According to the new law, the focus of government work will be shifted from issuing licences to conducting inspections.’
      • ‘Terry Levin, a highly respected art director, has shifted her emphasis away from advertising and now specializes in packaging.’
      • ‘While all deaths on the roads are avoidable it seems that your campaign aims to shift the focus and blame away from motorcyclists and onto other road users.’
      • ‘My mother was never the type to dwell on the things that upset her so I wasn't surprised to find her changing the subject and shifting the focus onto me.’
      • ‘Such a viewpoint does not quite mean ‘getting rid’ of problems, but rather shifting one's focus.’
      • ‘The time has also come, he says, to shift some of the focus of innovation away from work and toward everyday life.’
      • ‘The nurse who compliments also feels buoyed and shifts his/her focus from negative to positive.’
      • ‘Seeing the sign on the interstate for the exit he wanted, he shifted all of his thoughts back to the present, focusing on what he was doing now.’
      change, convert, divert, redirect
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    3. 1.3no object Change in emphasis, direction, or focus.
      ‘the wind had shifted to the east’
      ‘the balance of power shifted abruptly’
      • ‘The press's attention shifted elsewhere, at least temporarily.’
      • ‘Has the media balance of power shifted to bloggers?’
      • ‘The focus of the conferences has gradually shifted from Computer Science to Economics.’
      • ‘National perceptions of distance shifted fundamentally, and travel began to become a consumer good.’
      • ‘This year, however, it was clear how far the balance of power has shifted in favor of the operators and their desire to control the design and branding of the phone.’
      • ‘The focus of his attention shifted abruptly to the moonlit scene before him.’
      • ‘In upcoming issues, the focus will shift to wind and solar power, and then to ethanol.’
      • ‘Since the group was founded, its research focus has shifted from a heavy emphasis on physics, to include other fields.’
      • ‘Over the years the animation seems to have shifted over to the computer - or so it looks - and everything about it has become painful to watch.’
      • ‘But even as the balance of power on the ground shifted in one direction, the balance of politics at home was shifting in the other.’
      • ‘Then, almost abruptly, the focus shifted to program financing.’
      • ‘The balance of power has shifted from availability and accessibility to competence and control.’
      • ‘Even now that the balance of power has shifted, attitudes haven't really changed.’
      • ‘Traditional forms of organization are being changed because the balance of power has shifted in fundamental ways.’
      • ‘While code requirements are still an issue for emergency power, much of the emphasis has shifted to providing power to certain loads.’
      • ‘The balance of power has shifted; this time I truly am in control, and the feeling is exhilarating.’
      • ‘If the area is violent, the balance of power can shift in the opposite direction.’
      • ‘But he says the balance of power has shifted towards the workers because the public sector is having to compete with the private sector for a limited pool of talent.’
      • ‘Suddenly the balance of power shifted from the clubs to the players, who could now hold their employers to ransom as they neared the end of their contract.’
      • ‘The focus shifted from the direct and rapid detection of life to acquiring a better understanding of the planet.’
      veer, alter, change, back, vary, fluctuate, turn, swing, change direction
      View synonyms
    4. 1.4Computing with object Move (data) one or more places to the right or left in a register.
      ‘the partial remainder is shifted left’
      • ‘And, after the next clock pulse at t5, all logic 1s will have been shifted out, replaced by 0s.’
      • ‘A register that is capable of shifting data one bit at a time is called a shift register.’
      • ‘A bidirectional shift register, which is capable of shifting bits to the left (L) or right (R), will then be capable of performing modulo-2 division and multiplication operations.’
    5. 1.5no object Press the shift key on a typewriter or computer keyboard.
      • ‘If it's a manual, the shift-lock's probably broken and/or stuck, so she needs to shift and unshift it a few times.’
      • ‘You had to shift up and down for every letter or punctuation, and had to hit the stiff, tubular keys by arching your fingers to hit them straight down, hard.’
      • ‘While I was going through the shortcut for the horizontal scrolling shortcut which said either do shift or ctrl or alt + scrolling, i found out that shift + scroll up does the forward and shift + scroll down does backward.’
      • ‘Similarly, if you Shift-left-click an entity in the graphics window, GAMBIT adds the entity to the appropriate open pick list.’
    6. 1.6informal with object Sell (something)
      ‘a lot of high-priced product you simply don't know how to shift’
      • ‘We really did shift some stuff last weekend, didn't we?’
      • ‘This is no bad thing when one considers how direct, sharp and inventive that mini-genre could be - and how many millions of albums Rob Thomas shifted.’
      • ‘If they stop shifting beer and food then they will start to get feedback from people they see as more important than your humble fan.’
      • ‘It's very important to finish the design phase before the end of this year (so that we can shift the product to the market at the beginning of next year).’
      • ‘SonicBlue does indeed appear to have a problem shifting its Diamond Mako PDA.’
      • ‘I know that there is an element of advertising - my whisky must be good because there is a bottle in TWE at £10000! - but they must also want to shift some product.’
      • ‘And while we might be tough on price, we do shift some volume.’
    7. 1.7North American no object Change gear in a vehicle.
      ‘she shifted down to fourth’
      • ‘Lee shifted to third gear and blasted through the long stretch of highway.’
      • ‘The bike roared to 100 kph before I even had the chance to shift into second gear.’
      • ‘To maintain the vehicle speed, she would have to shift into a lower gear.’
      • ‘He shifted to the first gear and the jeep rolled off the side and onto the freeway.’
      • ‘Without the pressures and distractions of the group, I started my bike first try, and then flew off, shifting into fourth gear without a hitch.’
      • ‘Drake slammed on the gas and shifted into third gear.’
      • ‘If you changed your point of view by standing on the other side of my bike, my left wrist would also turn clockwise when I shift to a higher gear.’
      • ‘She eased out onto the road and shifted into a higher gear.’
      • ‘He still didn't look at her as he shifted into gear and started driving down the street.’
      • ‘To shift into fourth gear, you push the button yet again.’
      • ‘He flipped the switch to on, shifted into first gear, and hit the gas.’
      • ‘I can barely shift into second gear without sliding and almost spinning out of control.’
      • ‘Shannon shifted into gear and pulled away from the curb without a word.’
      • ‘Kahn looked both ways and turned left, shifting into a higher gear with a clank.’
      • ‘Zaren pushed in the clutch and shifted to second gear and the car made a sudden leap in speed.’
      • ‘So after about a mile of sauntering I shifted into third gear and left Brower with his hair ruffling in my wind.’
      • ‘A car with a manual transmission, after conversion, may be shifted manually or worked like an automatic.’
      • ‘You'll learn not to get distracted when the car is about to shift into top gear.’
      • ‘Taylor shifted into low gear and went into six wheel drive.’
      • ‘When I encountered tractors on west Cork's twisty lanes, it was often necessary to shift down into first gear to get started again.’
    8. 1.8archaic no object Be evasive or indirect.
      ‘they know not how to shift and rob as the old ones do’
      • ‘He leads by following opinion, he trims, he shifts, he glides on the silvery sounds of his undulating, flexible, cautiously modulated voice, winding his way betwixt heaven and earth.’


  • 1A slight change in position, direction, or tendency.

    ‘a shift in public opinion’
    ‘a shift of wind took us by surprise’
    • ‘The shift in position of the disaffected crew comes as opinion in the resort town seemed to be swinging behind the former coxswain.’
    • ‘She cut him off completely with the slightest shift in her fingers.’
    • ‘What seems at first no more than a slight shift in scholarly emphasis proves in the end to have enormous consequences.’
    • ‘In spite of that, the aural evidence affirms that Pole's new music largely retains the distinctiveness of the old, in spite of its radical shift in direction.’
    • ‘She received his complaint as a portent, the way a sailor notes a shift in the wind.’
    • ‘The projected image can be observed at intervals of 15 minutes to see the shift in the position of the planet.’
    • ‘Her bright eyes seemed focused everywhere at once, noticing the slightest shift in her friends' bodies and the surrounding walls.’
    • ‘On other occasions, a name change is intended to signify a shift in direction of a business.’
    • ‘Only a sudden shift in world financial winds, with the yen's surge in late 1998, saved the day.’
    • ‘Firefighters there are counting on a break in the hot weather and a shift in the wind to give them an upper hand.’
    • ‘Change can be no more than a slight shift in direction - although, as when a tanker ship charts a new course, this may have dramatic long-term consequences.’
    • ‘This is simply a massive shift in fund positioning from the January peak in the gold price where funds were long by nearly a 5: 1 ratio.’
    • ‘Those familiar with Offen's previous work may discern a slight shift in her perspective in terms of theoretical framework.’
    • ‘But officials now say the city itself is safe, at least for now, after a shift in winds turned the largest of the fires back on itself.’
    • ‘The change in size also heralds a slight shift in editorial direction.’
    • ‘Though his successes often followed a major shift in a new direction, the updates of his image throughout the years have met with as many failures.’
    • ‘In my eyes a slight shift in the script would make the ending of the show seem a tad less grim.’
    • ‘It used to be more but there are some issues to face, such as an aggressive local competitor and also a shift in direction in the industry.’
    • ‘But this year's job list reveals a slight shift in emphasis.’
    • ‘He was necessarily very anxious to convey the sense that there was now a substantial shift in political direction.’
    movement, move, shifting, transference, transport, conveyance, switch, transposition
    change, alteration, adjustment, adaptation, amendment, recasting, variation, modification, revision, reversal, retraction, sea change, u-turn, rowback
    View synonyms
    1. 1.1Astronomy The displacement of spectral lines.
      See also redshift
      • ‘This spectral shift possibly reflects increased hydrogen bonding and/or specific iterations with cationic species.’
      • ‘The amount and period of the shift is used to calculate the orbital velocity, size of the stars, and their distance from one another.’
      • ‘The spectral shift occurs slowly, reaching a plateau after 15-20 min, and is fully reversible.’
      • ‘The spectral shift indicates that the hydrogens are completely replaced by deuterons.’
      • ‘Single wavelength probes only show changes in intensity on binding with no spectral shift.’
    2. 1.2 A key on a typewriter or computer keyboard used to switch between two sets of characters or functions, principally between lower- and upper-case letters.
      • ‘His left ring finger pressed the shift key when he needed to select a capital letter.’
      • ‘Pressing the shift key while drawing will produce a straight line.’
      • ‘I could understand a typo, but apparently the shift key on this guy's pen was broken.’
      • ‘This allows one of the keys to double as a shift key similar to a shift key on a keyboard.’
      • ‘It turns out you can defeat this system by holding down the shift key when you insert a music CD into your computer.’
      • ‘In the case of Tamil, you have 63 letters and one has to use the shift key quite often because each key has two letters on it.’
      • ‘But what I really want to know is: why do you have to use the shift key to get a full stop… not to mention the question of why Q is in the easiest spot on the keyboard to hit, the location of the English keyboard A?’
      • ‘The symbol following the shift key could then come from an alternative set of characters, just as the shift key on a keyboard offers access to new symbols.’
      • ‘A second shift key has been added to the right of the space bar.’
      • ‘He finds it easier not to use capitals, as it takes a second hand to push the shift key.’
      • ‘A scientist who discovered that by holding down the shift key on your PC can bypass the copyright protection on music CDs has been threatened with legal action under America's infamous Millennium Act.’
      • ‘When using the shift key the game pad has the ability to store an impressive 56 programmable keys, this is done with the combination of shifting modes, Red, Green and Blue.’
      • ‘Apparently they force you to write your memoirs on a keyboard with a sticky shift key.’
      • ‘For example, to access a character's inventory, you have to use the left shift key, while the ‘i’ and ‘tab’ keys aren't used for anything.’
      • ‘On my system where I have always-run set on, the shift key actually slows the camera movement down, making for better camera motions.’
      • ‘Disable the auto-start feature on your PC or hold the shift key down whenever inserting an ‘enhanced’ or unknown CD.’
      • ‘Are the shift key and space bar that hard to find on your keyboard, David?’
      • ‘When you put a disc in the drive, hold the shift key on your keyboard - before the disc is inserted.’
      • ‘Then, holding down a shift key, I could use this same feature to select a portion of the file with that same granularity, making clipboard and punch-in/punch-out operations a snap.’
      • ‘For example, the right shift key is the same size as the standard letter keys, and lots of typists will go crazy hitting the next-door up arrow instead.’
    3. 1.3
      short for sound shift
      • ‘But through prescribed borders, shifts in dialect coalesced into distinct languages.’
      • ‘The stories she listened to intrigued her with their form as well as their content, the myriad dialects, shifts, and cadences of African American voices.’
      • ‘Many of these ‘mistakes’ are easily-explained shifts in the sound system of spoken English.’
    4. 1.4North American The gearshift or gear-changing mechanism in a motor vehicle.
      • ‘Smooth acceleration occurred whether you used the auto box, the paddle shift or the Tiptronic system.’
      • ‘The gear shift is electronic, and has a plastic lever that moves in order to allow gear change.’
      • ‘All the sequential shifter does is convert the back and forth motion to move the two shifter rods in a standard H pattern gear shift.’
      • ‘It would also be very straight forward to make a solendoid activate the sequential shift, so that you can have paddle shifting, with the paddles or buttons wherever you want.’
      • ‘I thought ForceFed's was a full sequential transmission with computer controlled clutch and all, not just a sequential gear shift.’
    5. 1.5Building The positioning of successive rows of bricks so that their ends do not coincide.
      • ‘The problem is the brick pattern needs to start at the top of the4" block wall, this equates to a 1/2 course of one brick shift upward.’
    6. 1.6Computing A movement of the digits of a word in a register one or more places to left or right, equivalent to multiplying or dividing the corresponding number by a power of whatever number is the base.
      • ‘Similarly, if we operate in reverse chronological order (i.e. from t=4 to t=1), the left shift will result in a multiplication by two.’
      • ‘I state that to multiply by 10 you use shifts to quickly multiply by 2 and 8 and then add the results.’
      • ‘At each time step from t=1 onwards, the right shift results in a state change which indicates a division by two operation.’
    7. 1.7American Football A change of position by two or more players before the ball is put into play.
      • ‘The shifts never jar the player out of the experience, never dent the game's inherent fluidity.’
      • ‘The team is successful with shifts because Gannon is so adept at reading defenses and exploiting weaknesses, as are veteran WRs Jerry Rice and Brown.’
      • ‘I always enjoy the shouts among defenders when an offensive team puts a man in motion or shifts before the snap.’
      • ‘Nebraska is a classic West Coast team with a lot of jumps and scramble shifts before the ball is snapped.’
  • 2One of two or more recurring periods in which different groups of workers do the same jobs in relay.

    ‘the night shift’
    • ‘This allowed Honda to go from three shifts to two, and through the use of a new primer and clear coat process, final production time was cut by 18 minutes.’
    • ‘Giant carmakers including Ford, Mazda and Isuzu have already increased work shifts to two periods because of rising purchasing orders.’
    • ‘A dozen officers were tied up with filling out reports for two and a half hours before they rounded off their shift with a patrol in the police van.’
    • ‘I had been working overnight shifts with continuous periods of work with no real rest over a good 12 hours.’
    • ‘However, Miss Halliday said, even if the couple had been involved, they never handled cash together and were often working on different shifts.’
    • ‘He meets a lot of different people during his shifts and because he is so young, he brings something a bit out-of-the ordinary to the wards and to the patients that he chats to.’
    • ‘A lot of planning and arranging for people to cover different shifts was done by Kathleen and a big thank you goes to her and all those volunteers who gave of their time so freely.’
    • ‘He worked two different shifts - one requiring him to be in Leeds by 6am.’
    • ‘They work different shifts; each commutes 60 miles a day.’
    • ‘About 15 years ago, I had to do a week of late shifts as a Computer Operator and it was during a possibly visible Aurorae.’
    • ‘The company says staff will not be expected to work more shifts, just different shifts, and, with increased rates for Saturday nights and Sundays, they shouldn't lose out financially.’
    • ‘Time off in lieu isn't the same: because if family members are working different shifts, they may never get to see each other.’
    • ‘Except for delimbing and slashing, most of the phases are run on single daylight hour shifts, giving the crew a fair amount of time together after work.’
    • ‘The chemical mixing section, which used to employ 50 people on four different shifts, will now be run by four contract workers.’
    • ‘We all work different shifts, so there's always someone home to watch the baby, and they help out with expenses.’
    • ‘The crew is on duty for three 24-hour shifts (coming on duty at 1pm) with a day off in between each and then four days off.’
    • ‘It could particularly disadvantage many part time women workers who work weekend shifts.’
    • ‘She's on call 365 days a year, and her crew of 25 do shifts of three weeks on, three weeks off.’
    • ‘They would work two different shifts meaning the station would have day crew attendance seven days a week.’
    • ‘In this city the Markets were held open twenty-four hours a day to better serve the people who worked wildly different shifts throughout the levels of the city.’
    work period, stint, spell of work, stretch
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    1. 2.1 The group of people who work during a particular shift.
      • ‘I spent a great day yesterday visiting with old friends in two different shifts.’
      • ‘We have a skeleton crew here now, but as soon as the phone stops ringing I am going to hire a second crew and then a third shift and do a weekend run.’
      • ‘Around 50 people were transported in the first few hours by the team, who were replaced at teatime by a second shift who remained at the village until midnight.’
      • ‘I understood and sat up, searching for my shift on the floor.’
      • ‘It must, however, operate long hours to meet the commuting needs of different shifts.’
      • ‘He would just have to wait for his shift at the computer console and, in the meantime, try to remain content.’
      group, crew, gang, team, squad, patrol
      View synonyms
  • 3A woman's straight unwaisted dress.

    • ‘The girl changed her dress into a simple shift and checked the hall way for any lingering servants.’
    • ‘Often cited as the mother of the mini, designer Mary Quant - tired of the constraints of women's fashion - introduced the first short shift dress back in '58.’
    • ‘The key is to match the black or grey stockings with white/neutral-colored shifts.’
    • ‘More from Anthropologie, we have this plaid trench, which is understated and stylish and this adorable shift dress.’
    • ‘She awoke with the sun and dressed in a simple shift.’
    • ‘She had the same dark blonde hair, and blue eyes, and the same blue shift dress as she had the day before when I saw her on the promenade.’
    • ‘The suit had a matching knee length skirt, shell top and shift dress; with the chiffon blouses she already had they would do for several different outfits.’
    • ‘Dressed in a simple white shift dress, miniature white roses attempting to tame her long dark curls, Lisa had been happier than she had ever thought possible.’
    • ‘She was dressed in a simply shift, all traces of make-up gone from her face, her hair tied back with a plain ribbon.’
    • ‘Standout pieces include his sexy and form-fitting cropped trench coats, the multiple of flirty, Gatsby-esque shift dresses, and the cool, low-slung pants often paired with lightweight chiffon blouses.’
    • ‘Today she is wearing a simple shift dress and no make-up and the sight of her looking so ordinary and conventional is indeed slightly shocking.’
    • ‘His masterpiece to date is his American Rose beaded V-neck shift dress, a combination of nine colours, which was a show-stopper at MAFW '04.’
    • ‘She hangs an Anna Sui plaid skirt and XOXO classic black shift dress in her closet.’
    • ‘Anne Keers, from Ampleforth, went for an opulent feel, in a long black velvet jacket from Mexx and patterned shift dress from Pennita, Helmsley.’
    • ‘I love the cute A-line dresses and short shift dresses.’
    • ‘Wearing a 1940s-style polka-dot shift dress and sailor's hat, Ms McAndrew planted a kiss on the war veteran.’
    • ‘I especially love the short shift dresses with black leggings.’
    • ‘Her Audrey Hepburn inspired boat neck black shift dress was a subtle look that women often search for, but cannot find in the shops.’
    • ‘She returned from the party and stripped off her tea gown, she replaced it with a simple shift.’
    • ‘They have a fantastic herringbone hourglass shift dress and a black, long-sleeved jersey dress, again in a clinging 1950s style, both from’
    dress, gown, robe
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    1. 3.1historical A long, loose-fitting undergarment.
      • ‘Kate tugged off her muddy boots and leather armor to pull on a clean shift and the purple gown.’
      • ‘She pulled a brightly coloured gown over her shift, tying it at the waist with a decorative sash.’
      • ‘Taking off her mud covered dress she noticed the hem of her shift was also caked in mud, so she put on a clean one.’
      • ‘She stripped down to her shift, putting her dress carefully in a corner, and progressed to the armoire.’
      • ‘She finally decided on a sky blue dress with a beige shift underneath.’
  • 4archaic An ingenious or devious device or stratagem.

    ‘the thousand shifts and devices of which Hannibal was a master’
    • ‘Others were less well placed, and had to devise various shifts and stratagems to maintain their social and political position.’
    • ‘"I cannot trust thee," cried the Assassin; for when I am gone thou wilt return to thy old courses, and, by some ingenious shift or other, contrive to free thyself from the obligation of thy oath."’
    • ‘Too often the unemployed blamed themselves rather than society for what they saw as their failures, for the shifts and stratagems by which they were forced to survive.’
    stratagem, scheme, subterfuge, expedient, dodge, trick, ruse, wile, artifice, deception, strategy, device, plan
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  • make shift

    • Do what one wants to do in spite of not having ideal conditions.

      • ‘If this is what we have to do, make an effort - if we have to make shift with things as they are and not as we wish they were - then I hope I am up to that effort.’
      • ‘In that absence one makes do - makes shift - with what is to hand and with the hands one has.’
      • ‘As You Like It is the precursor of King Lear in a number of respects; the Forest of Arden is a harsh place and people who dwell there must make shift to survive.’
  • shift for oneself

    • Manage as best one can without help.

      • ‘If this principle of noninterference is practiced resolutely, the minority - presumably less resourceful - groups must be left alone to shift for themselves.’
      • ‘Pea-Jacket left Sarah Curley and her two sons to shift for themselves.’
      • ‘Most of the remaining knights took the remaining ships and sailed for Antioch, leaving the foot soldiers and the pilgrims to shift for themselves.’
      • ‘That group is left to shift for itself in crowded community college classes or in the packed lecture halls of public universities.’
      • ‘A city could expect to have the months of winter uninterrupted by visitors, and whether for purposes of survival or for purposes of entertainment, residents had to shift for themselves and for each other.’
      • ‘They arrived in fine condition on the good ship Lightning and were soon turned out to shift for themselves on Austin's estate in Victoria province.’
      • ‘But these orders had still not arrived when, on 24 August, he sailed secretly for France of his own accord, leaving the army he had taken to the east to shift for itself.’
      • ‘Moreover, the farmers' dogs were expected to shift for themselves, scavenging for food around the farm.’
      cope, cope on one's own, manage, manage by oneself, survive, manage without assistance, manage without help, make it on one's own, fend for oneself, take care of oneself, make do, get along, get by, scrape along, scrape by, muddle along, muddle through
      View synonyms
  • shift one's ground

    • Say or write something that contradicts something one has previously written or said.

      • ‘He has shifted his ground big time and I welcome that Mr Speaker, because it is in everybody's interest to have the free trade agreement passed.’
      • ‘Although (as I have already indicated) Irving was prepared at one stage of the trial to agree that in broad terms the answer to this question is in the affirmative, he later shifted his ground.’
      • ‘Stark himself recognizes different senses of secularization when he insists that scholars not shift their ground in order to avoid embarrassment to the theory.’
      • ‘I note that the member is now shifting his ground.’
      • ‘He had been asked a series of questions, he seemed to be shifting his ground and the Tribunal obviously did not accept him on any of these matters.’
      • ‘Since opponents of vouchers remain strong, rather than risk everything on an all-singing, all-dancing scheme that he was unlikely to get through Congress, he shifted his ground.’
      • ‘In contemporary terms he has shifted his ground from the most pie-in-the-sky wish list of knowledge innovations to the most down-to-earth bread-and-butter of transaction processing.’
      • ‘Are you struggling to keep up with events, or shifting your ground to try to keep in step with Joe public?’
      • ‘In the light of this possibility, critics of tax funding have shifted their ground, arguing that it restricts choice and responsiveness.’
      • ‘Instead of trying to show from the nature of the situation that there is a logical difference between the two kinds of ownership, he shifts his ground to a consideration of consequences.’


Old English sciftan ‘arrange, divide, apportion’, of Germanic origin; related to German schichten ‘to layer, stratify’. A common Middle English sense ‘change, replace’ gave rise to shift (sense 3 of the noun) (via the notion of changing one's clothes) and shift (sense 2 of the noun) (via the concept of relays of workers).