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  1. a rough cabin; shanty.
  2. Informal. radio shack.
Verb Phrases
  1. shack up, Slang.
    1. to live together as spouses without being legally married.
    2. to have illicit sexual relations.
    3. to live in a shack: He's shacked up in the mountains.

Origin of shack1

1875–80, Americanism; compare earlier shackly rickety, probably akin to ramshackle (Mexican Spanish jacal “hut” is a phonetically impossible source)
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018
British Dictionary definitions for shack up

shack up

  1. (intr, adverb usually foll by with) slang to live or take up residence, esp with a mistress or lover


  1. a roughly built hut
  2. Southern African temporary accommodation put together by squatters
  1. See shack up

Word Origin

C19: perhaps from dialect shackly ramshackle, from dialect shack to shake


  1. Midland English dialect to evade (work or responsibility)
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012

Word Origin and History for shack up



1878, American English and Canadian English, of unknown origin, perhaps from Mexican Spanish jacal, from Nahuatl xacalli "wooden hut." Or perhaps a back-formation from dialectal English shackly "shaky, rickety" (1843), a derivative of shack, a dialectal variant of shake (v.). Another theory derives shack from ramshackle.

Slang meaning "house" attested by 1910. In early radio enthusiast slang, it was the word for a room or office set aside for wireless use, 1919, perhaps from earlier U.S. Navy use (1917). As a verb, 1891 in the U.S. West in reference to men who "hole up" for the winter; from 1927 as "to put up for the night;" phrase shack up "cohabit" first recorded 1935 (in Zora Neale Hurston).

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

Idioms and Phrases with shack up

shack up


Sleep together or live in sexual intimacy without being married. For example, They had been dating for two months and then decided to shack up. [Slang; first half of 1900s]


Stay or reside with, as in I'm shacking up with my cousin till I find a place of my own. [Slang; first half of 1900s]

The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company.