1. One who, or that which, shifts; one who plays tricks or practices artifice; a cozener. 'T was such a shifter that, if truth were known, death was half glad when he had got him down. (milton)
2. An assistant to the ship's cook in washing, steeping, and shifting the salt provisions.
3. (Science: machinery) A wire for changing a loop from one needle to another, as in narrowing, etc.