verb (used with object)

  1. to separate and retain the coarse parts of (flour, ashes, etc.) with a sieve.
  2. to scatter or sprinkle through or by means of a sieve: to sift sugar onto cake.
  3. to separate by or as if by a sieve.
  4. to examine closely: The detectives are still sifting the evidence.
  5. to question closely.

verb (used without object)

  1. to sift something.
  2. to pass or fall through or as if through a sieve.


  1. (tr) to sieve (sand, flour, etc) in order to remove the coarser particles
  2. to scatter (something) over a surface through a sieve
  3. (tr) to separate with or as if with a sieve; distinguish between
  4. (tr) to examine minutelyto sift evidence
  5. (intr) to move as if through a sieve

v.Old English siftan “pass (something) through a sieve,” from Proto-Germanic *sib- (cf. Dutch ziften, Middle Low German sichten, German sichten “to sift;” see sieve (n.)). Intransitive sense “to pass loosely or fall scatteredly” is from 1590s. Metaphoric sense of “look carefully through” first recorded 1530s. Related: Sifted; sifting.

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