Green’s Dictionary of Slang

shift v.

[SE shift, to move]

1. to have sexual intercourse.

[UK]Woman Turn’d Bully III i: To shift a Maid, is to make her a woman.
[Ire]Irish Times 8 May n.p.: The accused boy told his mother he had kissed her. His mother asked if that was all and he replied ‘I shifted her.’ Asked to explain, he continued, ‘I went all the way but I didn’t force her’ .
[Ire]F. Mac Anna Cartoon City 122: Despite himself, Myles was stung by Mia’s confession that she had shifted another man.
[Ire]L. McInerney Glorious Heresies 263: [S]he’s got long wavy hair just made for bunching in your hand while you shift her‘.

2. to move fast, to run.

[UK]Pierce Egan’s Life in London 19 Sept. 268/3: Mr Shelton labours hard to accuse me of shifting, by stating that I [...] went to Ireland.
[US]J. Flynt World of Graft 101: I thought if we could get that five thousand we could shift to Australia.
[Aus]‘McG’ ‘Man with Rubber Pedals‘ in Bulletin Reciter n.p.: As your calves and biceps swell, by Jingo, don’t you shift .
[UK]H.G. Wells Hist. of Mr Polly (1946) 198: ‘Not your blooming business,’ he said. ‘You got to shift.’.
[US]Rising Sun 25 Dec. 8/1: The jawin’ of the sergeant nearly drives a bloke insane / It’s pick this up, and bury that, and shift yer bloomin’ pins.
[UK]Wodehouse Inimitable Jeeves 223: I thought I might as well be shifting.
[UK]R. Llewellyn None But the Lonely Heart 80: Following his coat tails was no lark, neither, because he proper shifted himself.
[UK]A. Buckeridge Jennings Goes To School 192: Golly, it can’t half shift!
[Ire]B. Behan Scarperer (1966) 81: Yes, I suppose I’d better shift.
[UK]Beano Comic Library No. 96 39: Swipe me! He can shift!
[UK]Beano Comic Library No. 190 34: This old tub can fairly shift when she’s got a nice head of steam!
[Ire](con. 1970) G. Moxley Danti-Dan in McGuinness Dazzling Dark (1996) I iii: Shift. Look at the time it is.
[UK](con. 1950s) J. Byrne Slab Boys [film script] 31: Shift, I said ... move the torso!
[UK]T. Thorne (ed.) ‘Drill Slang Glossary’ at Forensic Linguistic Databank 🌐 Shift - move rapidly.

3. to kill, to murder [on model of put away v. (1a)].

[UK]Partridge DSUE (1984) 1049/2: 1898.

4. to consume, esp. to eat or drink a large amount [on model of put away v. (3)].

[UK]Sporting Times 5 Apr. 1/4: With a prefatory, ‘Well—heah she goes,’ they shifted the beer.
[UK]A. Chevalier Before I Forget (1901) 232: King Charles was off ’is peck but ’adn’t ’e got a thirst on ’im! Lor! couldn’t he shift the corfee!
[UK]B. Pain De Omnibus 72: Me and Ike went orf, and ’ad ter shift a pot each afore we cud regine our composure.
[UK]Marvel 22 Oct. 2: Rory is pretty good at shifting meat.
[Aus]Bulletin (Sydney) 1 Oct. 14/3: After that ’e wired a few blokes t’ join ’im in shiftin’ some cellar cordial, ’n’ they wandered off with ’im t’ th’ Fathom uv Froth shicker saloon.
H. Champion ‘The Girl with Golden Hair’ [monologue] She knew how to drink I declare, / She shifted the scotch and then shifted me watch.
[UK]Wodehouse Inimitable Jeeves 197: ‘Shifting a bit.’ ‘I beg your pardon?’ ‘Mopping up the stuff to some extent.’.
[UK]J.B. Priestley Good Companions 134: Booze isn’t Tommy’s trouble, though he can shift it as well as the next.
[UK]‘William Juniper’ True Drunkard’s Delight.
[UK]J. Maclaren-Ross Of Love And Hunger 62: I gulped down my scotch at one go, and Sukie said: ‘You can certainly shift it’.
[WI]Bob Marley ‘Pimper’s Paradise’ 🎵 She loves to party [...] She loves to screw. / Sometimes shifting coke / She’ll be laughing / When there ain’t no joke.
[UK]W. Russell Educating Rita I i: He manages a gulp at the whisky before he picks up the receiver and although his speech is not slurred, we should recognize the voice of a man who shifts a lot of booze.

5. to deep kiss.

[Ire](con. 1970) G. Moxley Danti-Dan in McGuinness Dazzling Dark (1996) I v: The page where they’re shifting, kissing like, is bent down.
[Ire]F. Mac Anna Cartoon City 5: Shifting some wagon who had a face like a roadmap.

6. (Irish) to pursue women.

[Ire]T. Murphy Conversations on a Homecoming (1986) 25: I shifted this Judy at a dance in Seapoint and wheeled her back to the Strand.
[Ire]M. Verdon Shawlies, Echo Boys, the Marsh and the Lanes 35: Whacker Murphy went shifting in the Arc and clicked a dolly from Gurrane. She was a lasher with a pair of josies that would act as buffers for the Innisfallen.
[UK]C. McPherson Port Authority 7: Danny the drummer had shifted this small goth chick.

7. (N.Z. prison) to stab.

[NZ]D. Looser Boobslang [U. Canterbury D.Phil. thesis] 164/2: shift v. to stab.

In compounds

shift work (n.) (also shift service) [sense 1 above + play on SE shift, a female undergarment]

sexual intercourse.

[UK]Farmer & Henley Sl. and Its Analogues VI 175/1: Shift-work (or Service), subs. phr. (venery). — Fornication.

SE in slang uses

In compounds

shift-round (n.)

movement, a changing of one’s place.

[UK]Guardian 28 Sept. 🌐 A djinni or demon over 5,000 years old, he is summoned by Nathaniel, a precocious 12-year-old magician’s apprentice, to steal a precious amulet. ‘It was a shift round from the usual expectations’ – boy wizard hero getting into scrapes – says Stroud.

In phrases

shift someone’s ears (v.)

(Aus.) to knock someone down.

[US]Cincinnati Enquirer (OH) 12 Dec. 2/7: Belcher sent in a tremendous right-hander, which [...] nearly ‘shifted his ear’ and made him quite dizzy.
[Aus]Bulletin (Sydney) 31 Jan. 6/3: [The yacht] was prominently brought under the notice of the British public [...] resultant upon her pugnacious commander having, on one fine morning, ‘flattened out,’ and ‘stiffened,’ and ‘shifted the ears,’ of a number of the crew and certain other people who had behaved in [...] an objectionable manner.
shift someone’s jaw (v.)

to assault.

[Aus]Bulletin (Sydney) 18 Apr. 14/2: Some minutes after the boats had crossed the line, several stragglers hove in sight, and their crews rewarded the starter for his punctuality by treating him to a blackguard hooting and threats to ‘shift his jaw’ for not waiting for them.
[UK]G.R. Sims ‘Pickpocket Poems’ Dagonet Ditties 93: Then I’d one that struck stars from my peeper, / And another that shifted my jaw.