shift (n.1)

c. 1300, "a movement, a beginning," from shift (v.); by mid-15c. as "an attempt, expedient, or means." This is the word in make shift "make efforts" (mid-15c.; see makeshift). The specific sense of "means to an end" is from 1520s, hence "a device, a trick." The sense of "change, alteration" in character, place, position, etc., is from 1560s.

The meaning "mechanism for changing gear in a motor vehicle" is recorded from 1914. Typewriter shift key is so called by 1893; its shift-lock is so called from 1899.

The meaning "period of working time" (originally in a mine) is attested from 1809, perhaps from or influenced by an older sense "relay of horses" (1708); perhaps also influenced by a North Sea Germanic cognate word (such as North Frisian skeft "division, stratum," skaft "one of successive parties of workmen"). Similar double senses of "division" and "relay of workers" is in Swedish skift, German schicht.

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shift (n.2)

"body garment, underclothing," 1590s, originally used alike of men's and women's garments, probably from shift (n.1), which was commonly used in reference to a change of clothes. In 17c., shift (n.) in this sense began to be used as a euphemism for smock, and was itself displaced, for similar reasons of delicacy, in 19c. by chemise.

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shift (v.)

Middle English shiften, from Old English sciftan, scyftan "arrange, place, put in order" (a sense now obsolete), also "divide, separate, partition; distribute, allot, share" (now obsolete or provincial), from Proto-Germanic *skiftan (source also of Old Norse skipta "to divide, change, separate," Old Frisian skifta "to decide, determine, test," Dutch schiften "to divide, turn," German schichten "to classify," Schicht "shift"). This is said to be related to the source of Old English sceadan "divide, separate" (see shed (v.)).

By c. 1200 as "to dispose; make ready; set in order, control," also intransitive, "take care of oneself." Thus "manage to succeed, make out a livelihood" (as in shift for oneself, 1510s; also compare makeshift).

The sense of "to alter, to change" appeared by mid-13c. (compare shiftless). Also from mid-13c. in the transitive sense of "remove and replace with another or others," originally especially of clothing, hence "put on and replace one's clothes" (c.1400).

From c. 1300 as "to go, move, depart; move (someone or something), transport" as from one place or position to another. The meaning "change the gear setting of an engine" is from 1910; to shift gears in the figurative sense is from 1961. Related: Shifted; shifting.

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second (adj.)

c. 1300, "next in order, place, time, etc., after the first; an ordinal numeral; being one of two equal parts into which a whole is regarded as divided;" from Old French second, secont, and directly from Latin secundus "following, next in time or order," also "secondary, subordinate, inferior," from PIE *sekw-ondo-, pariticipal form of root *sekw- "to follow."

It replaced native other in this sense because of the ambiguity of the earlier word. From late 14c. as "other, another" (as in "No Second Troy"), also "next in order in rank, quality, or importance."

Second sight is from 1610s; it presumably implies a second way of seeing in addition to the physical sight with the eyes, but it is etymologically perverse as it means the sight of events before, not after, they occur or are revealed. Second-degree in a general sense of "next to lowest on a scale of four" in Arostotelian qualities is from Middle English; in reference to burns, by 1890. Second fiddle is attested by 1809:

A metaphor borrowed from a musical performer who plays the second or counter to one who plays the first or the "air." [Bartlett, "Dictionary of Americanisms," 1848]

Latin secundus, tertius, etc. appended to personal names in English schools (to designate boys having the same surname by order of seniority) is attested by 1826s.

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second (n.1)

"one-sixtieth of a minute of degree," also "sixtieth part of a minute of time," late 14c. in geometry and astronomy, seconde, from Old French seconde, from Medieval Latin secunda, short for secunda pars minuta "second diminished part," the result of the second division of the hour by sixty (the first being the "prime minute," now simply the minute), from Latin secunda, fem. of secundus "following, next in time or order" (see second (adj.)).

The second hand of a clock, the pointer indicating the passage of seconds, is attested by 1759.

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second (n.2)

early 14c., "the one next in order after another or the first," from second (adj.). Also compare Middle English seconde (n.) "one who is second in authority." As "assistant, supporter," especially "one who attends a principal in a duel or pugilistic contest," by 1580s (from second (v.)). As short for second base in U.S. baseball, by 1861.

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second (v.)

1580s, "to support or represent (someone)," especially in a duel, pugilistic contest, etc., from French seconder, from Latin secundare "to assist, accommodate, direct favorably" (source also of Spanish segundar), from secundus "assisting, favorable; following, next in time or order" (see second (adj.)). The parliamentary sense is recorded by 1590s: "formally to express approval and support of (a motion, etc.) as a necessary preliminary to further discussion." Related: Seconded; seconding.

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second-hand (adj.)

also secondhand, "received from another or previous owner or user," 1650s, especially of clothes, "not new, having been worn," from the adverbial phrase at second hand "from a previous owner," attested by 1580s, perhaps mid-15c. See second (adj.) + hand (n.). Related: Second-handedness.

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swing-shift (n.)

1941 (typically 4 p.m. to midnight), from the notion of "facing both ways" between day and night shifts; see swing (v.) + shift (n.).

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night-shift (n.)

1710, "garment worn by a woman at night," from night (n. ) + shift (n.2). The meaning "gang of workers employed after dark" is attested from 1839, from shift (n.1).  

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