make shift

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make shift (third-person singular simple present makes shift, present participle making shift, simple past and past participle made shift)

  1. (dated) To contrive; to invent a way of surmounting a difficulty
    • 1596, William Shakespeare, The Merchant of Venice:
      Nerissa: How like you the young German, the Duke of Saxony's nephew?
      Portia: Very vilely in the morning, when he is sober, and most vilely in the afternoon, when he is drunk: when he is best, he is a little worse than a man, and when he is worst, he is little better than a beast: and the worst fall that ever fell, I hope I shall make shift to go without him.
    • 1773, Oliver Goldsmith, She Stoops to Conquer:
      Ecod, I thank your worship, I'll make a shift to stay my stomach with a slice of cold beef in the pantry.
    • 1854, Henry David Thoreau, Walden, chapter 1:
      The success of great scholars and thinkers is commonly a courtier-like success, not kingly, not manly. They make shift to live merely by conformity, practically as their fathers did, and are in no sense the progenitors of a noble race of men.
    • 1872, Mark Twain, Roughing It, chapter 32:
      We could find no matches, and so we tried to make shift with the pistols.
    • 1905, Robert Louis Stevenson, The Art of Writing:
      I was unable to handle a brig (which the Hispaniola should have been), but I thought I could make shift to sail her as a schooner without public shame.
    • 1922, John Buchan, Huntingtower, chapter 14:
      The military historian must often make shift to write of battles with slender data, but he can pad out his deficiencies by learned parallels.

Usage notes[edit]

Frequently accompanied by "with" (something) or "without" (something).


Related terms[edit]