v. shift·ed, shift·ing, shifts
1. To exchange (one thing) for another of the same class: shifted assignments among the students.
2. To move or transfer from one place or position to another.
3. To alter (position or place).
4. To change (gears), as in an automobile.
5. Linguistics To alter phonetically as part of a systematic historical change.
1. To change position, direction, place, or form.
a. To provide for one's own needs; get along: "See me safe up: for my coming down, I can shift for myself" (Thomas More).
b. To get along by tricky or evasive means.
3. To change gears, as when driving an automobile.
4. Linguistics To be altered as part of a systematic historical change. Used of speech sounds.
5. To use a shift key.
1. A change from one person or configuration to another; a substitution.
a. A group of workers that relieve another on a regular schedule.
b. The working period of such a group: worked the night shift.
a. A means to an end; an expedient.
b. A stratagem; a trick.
4. A change in direction: a shift in the wind.
5. A change in attitude, judgment, or emphasis.
6. A change in position, as:
a. Music A change of the hand position in playing the violin or a similar instrument.
b. Football A rearrangement of players from one formation to another just prior to the snap of the ball.
c. Baseball A rearrangement of one or more fielders for improved defense against a particular hitter.
d. Geology See fault.
e. Computers Movement of characters in a register to the left or right, as of the bits in a byte.
7. The act or an instance of using a shift key.
8. Physics A change in wavelength, causing a movement of a spectral band or line.
a. A systematic change of the phonetic or phonemic structure of a language.
b. Functional shift.
a. A loosely fitting dress that hangs straight from the shoulder; a chemise.
b. A woman's undergarment; a slip or chemise.
[Middle English shiften, from Old English sciftan, to arrange, divide.]
The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fifth Edition copyright ©2020 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.
Indo-European & Semitic Roots Appendices
Thousands of entries in the dictionary include etymologies that trace their origins back to reconstructed proto-languages. You can obtain more information about these forms in our online appendices:
The Indo-European appendix covers nearly half of the Indo-European roots that have left their mark on English words. A more complete treatment of Indo-European roots and the English words derived from them is available in our Dictionary of Indo-European Roots.