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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)


verb (used with object) Informal.
  1. to chase and throw back; to retrieve: to shack a ground ball.

Origin of shack2

1825–35, Americanism; apparently special use of dial. shack to shake
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Examples from the Web for shack

Contemporary Examples

Historical Examples

  • Now, waking, his hand was working nervously across the floor of the shack.

  • Then you'll turn around and walk straight back to the shack.

  • But the shack filled with his disapproval of her reluctance to free him from his promise.


    Mr. and Mrs. Haldeman-Julius

  • At the time she came to Martin's shack, she was potentially any one of a half dozen women.


    Mr. and Mrs. Haldeman-Julius

  • There were three men camped in the shack here, and we spent the night with them.

British Dictionary definitions for shack


  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


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