Etymology
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shifter (n.)

1550s, "one who shifts" in any way; agent noun from shift (v.). As a mechanical contrivance, from 1869; specifically of the gear-changing mechanism in a motor-vehicle, from 1910.

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Definitions of shifter

shifter (n.)
a stagehand responsible for moving scenery;
Synonyms: sceneshifter
shifter (n.)
a mechanical device for engaging and disengaging gears;
Synonyms: gearshift / gearstick / gear lever
From wordnet.princeton.edu