verb (used with object)
to separate and retain the coarse parts of (flour, ashes, etc.) with a sieve.
to scatter or sprinkle through or by means of a sieve: to sift sugar onto cake.
to separate by or as if by a sieve.
to examine closely: The detectives are still sifting the evidence.
to question closely.
verb (used without object)
to sift something.
to pass or fall through or as if through a sieve.

before 900; Middle English siften, Old English siftan; cognate with Dutch, Middle Low German siften; akin to sieve

outsift, verb (used with object)
presift, verb (used with object)
resift, verb (used with object)
unsifted, adjective

4. sort, scrutinize, inspect, search, probe. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2014.
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World English Dictionary
sift (sɪft)
1.  (tr) to sieve (sand, flour, etc) in order to remove the coarser particles
2.  to scatter (something) over a surface through a sieve
3.  (tr) to separate with or as if with a sieve; distinguish between
4.  (tr) to examine minutely: to sift evidence
5.  (intr) to move as if through a sieve
[Old English siftan; related to Middle Low German siften to sift, Dutch ziften; see sieve]

Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 10th Edition
2009 © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009
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Word Origin & History

O.E. siftan "pass something through a sieve," related to sife (see sieve). Cf. Du. ziften, M.L.G. sichten, Ger. sichten "to sift." Metaphoric sense of "look carefully through" first recorded 1535.
Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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Computing Dictionary

SIFT definition

SHARE Internal Fortran Translator. Translation utility designed for converting Fortran II to Fortran IV. The word "sift" was often used as a verb to describe converting code from one language to another. Sammet 1969, p.153.

The Free On-line Dictionary of Computing, © Denis Howe 2010
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Example sentences
It's only been two weeks and they have many applications to sift through.
Only a single-digit percentage of people really understand how to sift through
  the way science is reported now.
Sift the salt and flour together, pour over the eggs and milk into it, and beat
  quickly with a spoon till it is foamy.
And second, a giant computer to sift through that data using a detailed query.
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