What does "have a shifty at" mean?

English Language Learners Asked on December 21, 2020

‘Well, Molly, I’m pretty sure this is a boggart,’ said Sirius, peering through the keyhole, ‘but perhaps we ought to let Mad-Eye have a shifty at it before we let it out — knowing my mother, it could be something much worse.’

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix

I don’t understand the phrase “have a shifty at”. “Shifty” is actually an adjective word, but here it’s used as a noun. I guess it probably means to let Mad-Eye take a look at it with his shifty eyes, but I don’t know if it’s a correct interpretation. How should we understand it here?

One Answer

It seems that you have found some slang there.

I haven't found a better source than this entry in a Cockney Rhyming site

The phrase have a shifty at is actually have a shufty at. This comes from the Arabic word shufti which means have you seen? The word was brought into the English language by British soldiers serving in the Middle East and is used as a slang expression for take a look.

According to The Free Dictionary

have a shufti
To look at something briefly. ("Shufti" originated as a military term.) Primarily heard in UK

I think that these explanations make sense with your text.

As you have already stated

it probably means to let Mad-Eye take a look

but you can drop the last part about his shifty eyes

Correct answer by RubioRic on December 21, 2020

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