AskDefine | Define sift

Dictionary Definition



1 move as if through a sieve; "The soldiers sifted through the woods"
2 separate by passing through a sieve or other straining device to separate out coarser elements; "sift the flour" [syn: sieve, strain]
3 check and sort carefully; "sift the information" [syn: sieve]
4 distinguish and separate out; "sift through the job candidates" [syn: sieve]

User Contributed Dictionary




  1. to sieve or strain (something)
  2. to separate or scatter (things) as if by sieving
  3. to examine (something) carefully
    • 1748. David Hume. Enquiries concerning the human understanding and concerning the principles of moral. London: Oxford University Press, 1973. § 28.
      But if we still carry on our sifting humour, and ask, What is the foundation of all conclusions from experience ? this implies a new question


to sieve or strain (something)
to separate or scatter (things) as if by sieving
to examine (something) carefully
  • Finnish: seuloa, tutkia
  • Portuguese: examinar minuciosamente
*Spanish: examinar minuciosamente

Extensive Definition

In general, a sieve separates wanted/desired elements from unwanted material using a tool such as a mesh, net or other filtration or distillation methods, but it is also used for classification of powders by particle size, or for size measurement as an analytical technique. The word "sift" derives from this term. A strainer is a type of sieve typically associated with separating liquids from solids.
Sieve may mean:



(see also: Filter)


Computer science


Other uses

  • a stainless steel strainer, used in plumbing
  • in metaphor and simile, sieve may often be used to refer to things that are leaky, as a sieve used for a bowl.
    • In particular, in hockey, a goaltender who lets a lot of goals through is sometimes compared to a sieve. (In college hockey students chant the word "sieve" at the opposite goalie)
    • In basketball, a player who is a poor defender is sometimes referred to as a "sieve."
  • On rivers, a sieve or strainer is a dangerous obstacle that water can pass through, but people cannot. See Obstacle in whitewater canoing
  • the Sieve, a river in Italy
sift in Catalan: Garbell
sift in German: Sieb
sift in French: Passoire
sift in Japanese: 篩
sift in Dutch: Zeef
sift in Polish: sito
sift in Portuguese: Crivo
sift in Spanish: Rejilla
sift in Spanish: Filtro
sift in Swedish: Såll

Synonyms, Antonyms and Related Words

air, analyze, appraise, assess, assort, bolt, canvass, catalog, categorize, choose, choose out, clarify, class, classify, clear, collate, comb, comment upon, consider, contradistinguish, controvert, cordon, cordon off, cull, cull out, deal with, debate, decide between, decrassify, deliberate, deliberate upon, delve into, demarcate, demark, depurate, differentiate, dig into, discourse about, discriminate, discuss, distill, distinguish, divide, draw the line, edulcorate, elute, essentialize, evaluate, examine, excerpt, exchange views, explore, extract, factor, fathom, filter, filtrate, gauge, ghettoize, gin, glean, go into, gradate, grade, group, handle, handpick, identify, indagate, inquire into, insulate, investigate, isolate, keep apart, keep aside, knock around, lay aside, leach, lixiviate, look into, make a selection, mark the interface, pass under review, peer into, percolate, pick, pick out, plumb, poke into, probe, prospect, pry into, purify, put aside, quarantine, rank, rap, reason, reason about, reason the point, rectify, refine, review, riddle, screen, screen out, scrutinize, search into, seclude, segregate, select, separate, set a limit, set apart, set aside, set off, sever, severalize, sieve, sieve out, sift out, single out, size, sort, sort out, sound, spiritualize, split hairs, strain, study, subdivide, sublimate, sublime, subordinate, subtilize, take up, talk, talk about, talk of, talk over, thrash, thrash out, thresh, thresh out, treat, try, ventilate, weed out, weigh, winnow
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