from The American HeritageĀ® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

  • transitive v. To put (flour, for example) through a sieve or other straining device in order to separate the fine from the coarse particles.
  • transitive v. To distinguish as if separating with a sieve: sifted the candidates for the job.
  • transitive v. To apply by scattering with or as if with a sieve: sift sugar on a dessert.
  • transitive v. To examine and sort carefully: sift the evidence.
  • intransitive v. To make use of a sieve.
  • intransitive v. To pass through or as if through a sieve: a meal that sifts easily.
  • intransitive v. To make a careful examination: sifted through back issues of the magazine.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • v. To sieve or strain (something).
  • v. To separate or scatter (things) as if by sieving.
  • v. To examine (something) carefully.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • transitive v. To separate with a sieve, as the fine part of a substance from the coarse
  • transitive v. To separate or part as if with a sieve.
  • transitive v. To examine critically or minutely; to scrutinize.

from The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia

  • To cause the finer parts of to pass through a sieve; part or separate the larger and smaller elements of, by shaking in a sieve; bolt: as, to sift meal, powder, sand, or lime; to sift the flour from the bran.
  • To pass or shake through or from anything in the manner of a sieve; pour out or stir up loosely, like particles falling from a sieve: as, to sift sand through the fingers; to sift sugar upon a cake.
  • To act upon or about as if by means of a sieve; examine with close scrutiny; subject to minute analysis: used with a great variety of applications: sometimes with out: as, to sift the good from the bad; to sift out the truth of the matter; to sift a proposition.
  • Synonyms Sift, Bolt, Strain, Screen. Sift is used especially of action by means of a sieve, or of anything serving as a sieve, as an independent instrument; bolt, of the separation of meal and bran, or of the different grades of meal or flour, or the like, by the mechanism of a mill. Strain and screen are used of analogous action upon liquids and coarser solids.
  • To pass or fall loosely or scatteringly, as if through the meshes of a sieve: as, the dust or the snow sifted through the crevices; the light sifts from the clouds.
  • To practise detailed scrutiny or investigation; make close examination.
  • n. Something that falls or passes as if from the meshes of a sieve; sifting or sifted material.

from WordNet 3.0 Copyright 2006 by Princeton University. All rights reserved.

  • v. distinguish and separate out
  • v. separate by passing through a sieve or other straining device to separate out coarser elements
  • v. move as if through a sieve
  • v. check and sort carefully


Middle English siften, from Old English siftan.
(American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition)


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