Definition of sift in English:



  • 1Put (a fine, loose, or powdery substance) through a sieve so as to remove lumps or large particles.

    ‘sift the flour into a large bowl’
    • ‘Beat whites with caster sugar till stiff, sift icing sugar and cornflour together and fold into egg white mixture.’
    • ‘Prepare the pasta by sifting the flour and a pinch of salt into a mound on a board. make a well in the centre and add the eggs.’
    • ‘Some individuals and small teams sifted through the loose black schist, taking advantage of a small stream.’
    • ‘I then sifted together powdered sugar and a cautious amount of cocoa.’
    • ‘Sift wholemeal flour, flour, soda and baking powder into a bowl.’
    • ‘At the end of each session, we removed the seed trays and sifted the sand to recover the remaining millet seeds.’
    • ‘It sifts the water, filtering out nutrients to help it grow.’
    • ‘The gap created by the jagged edge which is now further into the lawn should be filled with garden soil, sifted to a fine tilth.’
    • ‘Shirtless workers sifted through mounds of dry, reddish dirt with sieves as others added to the pile.’
    • ‘He also advised sifting the seedling soil mixture because they will tend to attach to large bits of bark for the moisture and it is very easy to damage tem when transplanting.’
    • ‘Sift flour into a large bowl and add the teaspoon of cinnamon.’
    • ‘Into a small bowl sift together flour, unsweetened cocoa powder, and salt.’
    • ‘To make the pastry, sift the flour and salt into a bowl and rub in the butter until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs.’
    • ‘Whip the cream until it just holds its shape and then stir in the sugar and sift in the cocoa.’
    • ‘Many spend the day knee-deep in water sifting for diamonds.’
    • ‘To make the icing, sift the icing sugar into a bowl and add enough lemon juice to make a smooth paste that will coat the back of a spoon.’
    • ‘Realizing her mistake, she began to sift through the ashes once more’
    • ‘Then sift the mixture through a fine mesh strainer to make sure the oils mix thoroughly with the powder.’
    • ‘I don't sift dry ingredients (cocoa powder, flour and baking powder), although it is of course up to you.’
    • ‘Add all the other ingredients - I sift everything to avoid lumps - and stir until smooth.’
    sieve, strain, screen, filter, riddle, purify, refine, winnow
    View synonyms
    1. 1.1Cause to flow or pass as through a sieve.
      ‘Melanie sifted the warm sand through her fingers’
      • ‘He chuckled and sifted sand between his fingers.’
      • ‘In the morning, he sat on the edge of the bed, the weight of another day upon him, light sifting dully in from under the window shade.’
      • ‘Adam dismounted from Sport, stooped to the ground, and lifted a handful of ashes, which he let sift through his fingers.’
      • ‘She'd listen to the soft sounds of the desert, and out there, it was so quiet at that time that she could hear the sand sifting across the desert.’
      • ‘Despite his awkward arrival, Howard smiled down at the sand a few centimeters beneath his nose, sifting a hand-full of the white granules through his fingers.’
      • ‘I grinned as I twisted my toes, letting the pale gold sand sift through them as I held the horse's head, letting his soft, horsy breath whisper into my ear, as if sharing a secret.’
      • ‘David stood up, letting the soft sand sift through his open fingers.’
      • ‘Zior shook off the memory as his attention shifted to a single figure that sifted through the crowd.’
      • ‘Everywhere, the righteous folk of Cambridge are strolling the polleny avenues, letting the breeze sift their hair.’
      • ‘Three rivers flowed into the city, their waters sifting through the canal system before reaching the lake.’
      • ‘The little spirit began to sift through my memories of Phoebe again.’
      • ‘The question tickled something long hidden, perhaps a meadow where sifting, warm light still shone, a memory of gossamer rays wrapped round his body in all splendorous tranquility.’
      • ‘As much as you can, let the tension sift from your muscles like grains of sand.’
      • ‘Caleb sat down beside her and began sifting the sand through his fingers.’
      • ‘But not all rotifers swim freely; some like the Flosculariacean rotifer above at center, will cement themselves by their foot to a handy alga or bit of dirt and sift the water for food.’
      • ‘Ben knelt a bit unsteadily, letting the loose dirt sift through his fingers.’
      • ‘Gemini awoke the next morning, not to her father prodding her in the side, but to a warm breeze sifting in through her window and the hot summer sun falling across her face.’
    2. 1.2[no object](of snow, ash, etc.) descend or float down lightly or sparsely as if sprinkled from a sieve.
      ‘ash began to sift down around them’
      • ‘Allow to cool slightly, then sift or spread brown sugar evenly over the top.’
      • ‘Nastasha's head rose and fell with the large intakes of air with each of his burly breaths, the fumes of the lime-laced vodka sifting through his nostrils.’
      • ‘Diamonds sparkle in the radiance of my headlamp as snow sifts from an ebony sky.’
      • ‘Sprinkle or sift 1/2 tsp. powdered sugar on top of each, then drizzle with lemon juice.’
      • ‘Crex rugs were lighter than conventional, woven rugs, easy to clean (dirt simply sifted through), and cheaper.’
      • ‘Watch any good fell runner descending from a summit and it's like sand sifting through an egg timer.’
      • ‘Coal dust sifts through her hair, invading eyes, nose, and mouth.’
      • ‘So press your seed into the soil and then sift over them lightly some sandy soil or even just fine sand.’
      • ‘When ready to serve, sift confectioners' sugar on top and slice like a pie.’
      • ‘Its massive back pushed up against the ceiling; the wooden timbers groaned and dust sifted down, making Rafe cough.’
      • ‘More silence followed, more sand sifted through my fingers.’
      • ‘The room was dark, and for a moment he did not know where he lay; then the memories began to sift back into his mind, like sand falling through an hourglass.’
      • ‘In the dusk a fine snow of mosquitoes sifted through the candlelight.’
      • ‘She sprayed a gentle mist of elegant perfume, one dash on her neck, another sifting onto her cascading hair, and another for her wrists.’
      • ‘At that instant, sand began to sift out of the cracks between the stones in the wall behind Regis and accumulate on the floor.’
      • ‘Join together and sift icing sugar over the top.’
      • ‘Snow was sifting down at Tiffindell ski resort near Rhodes yesterday morning, adding to over 25 cm which had fallen since Friday.’
  • 2Examine (something) thoroughly so as to isolate that which is most important or useful.

    ‘until we sift the evidence ourselves, we can't comment objectively’
    [no object] ‘the fourth stage involves sifting through the data and evaluating it’
    • ‘Having retired from the school last summer, he is now beginning the laborious process of sifting through his enormous archive and is writing a history of the period.’
    • ‘I poured myself some orange juice as Aurora began to sift through the cupboards for pancake mix.’
    • ‘I'm having the most enormous fun sifting through the mound of accumulated poems and haiku, bringing order and accord where there was none.’
    • ‘He was in Europe preparing for the Commonwealth Games and I was at home sifting and sorting through his personal belongings and boxing them up.’
    • ‘Planning time for teachers was established, and we began to sift through the resource materials and supply closet.’
    • ‘You will find information on the specific techniques that different search engines use to sift their data into the most effective lists.’
    • ‘It is the combined mass of efforts of journalists, and their analyses that sift the truth from the many layers of untruths, that provide the world information that it can act upon.’
    • ‘Three quarters of that was spent sifting choices down to twelve of my favourite songs and favourite songwriters.’
    • ‘As he sifts through the works of scientists, naturalists, composers and poets, Rothenberg performs intellectual contortions in an attempt to assemble or establish a unified theory of why birds sing.’
    • ‘For this reason, post-publication review is very important to sifting good theory from bad.’
    • ‘Rummaging through a small compartment next to her, she began to sift through old cards and small papers that she might need later on.’
    • ‘Greg steps forwards and begins to sift through the clothes.’
    • ‘There is a process of sifting and screening among MPs and frontbenchers which provides an informal shortlist of possible leaders.’
    • ‘They sifted through more than 4,000 poems before drawing up a shortlist of the 12 finalists.’
    • ‘The more I delved into sifting the reliable from the unreliable, the deeper I dropped into the well of discovery.’
    • ‘The conventional wisdom can change as new evidence is sifted through.’
    • ‘She turned to her paper work and began to sift through the information, taking notes and reminding herself to talk to Nathan about certain things.’
    • ‘Lord Hutton was asked to do a specific job: to take evidence, sift it, and reach conclusions.’
    • ‘Tristyn picked up the pile and began to sift through the letters one by one, setting the bills in one pile for her next call with her mother, her mother's personal mail and her own.’
    • ‘I crouched on the floor and dumped the contents of the waste basket out in front of me and began to sift through it.’
    search through, look through, rummage through, root about in, root around in, ferret, ferret about in, ferret around in, poke around in, go through, turn over, explore, examine, inspect, scrutinize, pore over, investigate, conduct investigations into, enquire into, conduct an enquiry into, delve into, go into, analyse, screen, sieve, probe, dissect, review, assess
    View synonyms
    1. 2.1Separate something, especially something to be discarded, from something else.
      ‘he asked for streamlined procedures to sift out frivolous applications’
      • ‘In these stories he sets himself the objective of sifting out the strongest elements that can be utilized within prose, leaving strong ideas and reflections.’
      • ‘FitzGerald had done what he does best - sifted gems out of public statistics.’
      • ‘And when Elizabeti tries to sift the rocks out of the rice, Obedi slaps at the basket and spills some of the rice on the ground.’
      • ‘Faced with ideas that negated their newly claimed identities, they neither argued nor capitulated, but simply left - thereby definitively sifting such ideas out of their religious beliefs.’
      • ‘Loedolff is busy sifting out undesirable works in the collection, and has been selling prints and oils that don't fit the profile of the collection.’
      • ‘At any rate, it took quite some time to dig out the weeds and sift out the roots and begin grading.’
      • ‘Sea squirts spend most of their lives attached to underwater rocks, sifting tiny particles of food from the water around them.’
      • ‘One of the positive aspects of the dotcom slump was that many pseudo-web designers were sifted out.’
      separate out, filter out, sort out, isolate, divide, part, segregate, put to one side, weed out, get rid of, remove
      View synonyms


  • 1[usually in singular] An act of sifting something, especially so as to isolate that which is most important or useful.

    ‘a careful archaeological sift must be made through the debris’
    • ‘Can the constable who is executing the warrant do a preliminary sift at the premises where the documents are stored, and then take all, or a large part of the material away to sort it out properly elsewhere?’
    • ‘And the way these used to work was that they would have each applicant come onto the stage and play a short piece of music and they'd do a very quick sift.’
    • ‘The first stage was a sift of application forms based on their degree and previous academic achievements, and an analysis of some simple competency based responses.’
    • ‘I only installed the ones that looked common or interesting figuring I can also have a proper sift through later if I'm looking for something special.’
    • ‘Have a sift through and leave a comment to tell me what you think, particularly if you come across any bugs of any sort.’
    • ‘A sift of the questionnaires should be undertaken prior to inputting information.’
    • ‘I decided to have a sift around the net and see what I could find.’
    • ‘These figures suggest that the sift did not discriminate against people on the basis of which university they had attended.’
    1. 1.1An amount of sifted material.
      ‘the floor was dusted with a fine sift of flour’
      • ‘Bundt cakes are so pretty, they don't need more than a sift of powdered sugar or a drizzle of simple syrup.’
      • ‘Add a few drops of water or a sift of flour as needed to get the desired texture.’


Old English siftan; related to Dutch ziften, also to sieve.