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See also: SIFT



From Middle English syften, from Old English siftan, from Proto-West Germanic *siftijan.


  • IPA(key): /sɪft/
  • (file)
  • Rhymes: -ɪft


sift (third-person singular simple present sifts, present participle sifting, simple past and past participle sifted)

  1. To sieve or strain (something).
  2. To separate or scatter (things) as if by sieving.
  3. To examine (something) carefully.
    1. [+object] (archaic or old-fashioned) To scrutinise (someone or something) carefully so as to find the truth.
      • 1595 December 9 (first known performance), William Shakespeare, “The life and death of King Richard the Second”, in Mr. William Shakespeares Comedies, Histories, & Tragedies: Published According to the True Originall Copies (First Folio), London: [] Isaac Iaggard, and Ed[ward] Blount, published 1623, →OCLC, [Act I, scene i], page 23, column 1:
        As neere as I could ſift him on that argument,
        On ſome apparant danger ſeene in him,
        Aym‘d at your Highneſſe, no inueterate malice.
      • 1748, David Hume, Enquiries concerning the human understanding and concerning the principles of moral, London: Oxford University Press, published 1973, § 28:
        But if we still carry on our sifting humour, and ask, What is the foundation of all conclusions from experience ? this implies a new question.
      • 1764, Horace Walpole, The Castle of Otranto, Strawberry Hill Press:
        It immediately occurred to him to sift her on the subject of Isabella and Theodore.
    2. [+ through (object)] To carefully go through a set of objects, or a collection of information, in order to find something.
      • 1996, Timothy B. Savage, Power Through Weakness: Paul's Understanding of the Christian Ministry in 2 Corinthians, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, page 70:
        Sifting through the work of great orators like Philostratus and Quintilian they identify numerous examples of classical irony, metaphor, comparison, etc. which are missing in Paul.
  4. (computing, dated) To move data records up in memory to make space to insert further records.

Derived terms[edit]