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From Old English siftan, from Proto-Germanic *siftijaną.


  • 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.
      • 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.
      • 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.

Derived terms[edit]