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shift +‎ -er


shifter (plural shifters)

  1. One who, or that which, shifts or changes.
  2. (linguistics) A word whose meaning changes depending on the situation, as by deixis.
    • 1995, Klein, Richard, “Introduction”, in Cigarettes are sublime, Paperback edition, Durham: Duke University Press, published 1993, →ISBN, OCLC 613939086, page 9:
      The cigarette is analogous to what linguists call a shifter, like the word I ; this device for expressing the irreducible particularity of my innermost self is universally available to every speaker and is thus the least particular thing in the world. The smoker manipulates the cigarette, like the word I, to tell stories to him/herself about him/herself — or to an other.
  3. (dated) One who plays tricks or practices artifice; a cozener.
    • Milton
      'Twas such a shifter that, if truth were known, Death was half glad when he had got him down.
  4. (nautical) An assistant to the ship's cook in washing, steeping, and shifting the salt provisions.
  5. (engineering) An arrangement for shifting a belt sidewise from one pulley to another.
  6. (engineering, textiles) A wire for changing a loop from one needle to another, as in narrowing, etc.
  7. (cycling) A component used by the rider to control the gearing mechanisms and select the desired gear ratio, usually connected to the derailleur by a mechanical actuation cable.
  8. A spanner with an adjustable jaw size.
  9. (mining, historical) A person employed to repair the horseways and other passages, and keep them unobstructed.
  10. (US, Pennsylvania) A switcher or shunter: a railroad locomotive used for shunting.
  11. (mythology, science fiction, fantasy) A shape-shifter, or a person or other being capable of changing their physical form.
  12. (erotica) A genre of erotica focusing on lycanthropes or other shapeshifters, such as werewolves.


Derived terms[edit]

Part or all of this entry has been imported from the 1913 edition of Webster’s Dictionary, which is now free of copyright and hence in the public domain. The imported definitions may be significantly out of date, and any more recent senses may be completely missing.
(See the entry for shifter in
Webster’s Revised Unabridged Dictionary, G. & C. Merriam, 1913.)