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or shake-down

[sheyk-doun] /ˈʃeɪkˌdaʊn/
extortion, as by blackmail or threats of violence.
a thorough search:
a shakedown of prison cells to uncover hidden drugs.
a bed, as of straw or blankets, spread on the floor.
any makeshift bed.
the act or process of shaking down.
Also called shakedown cruise, shakedown flight. a cruise or flight intended to prepare a new vessel or aircraft for regular service by accustoming the crew to its features and peculiarities, breaking in and adjusting machinery, etc.
Origin of shakedown
First recorded in 1490-1500; noun, adj. use of verb phrase shake down


[sheyk] /ʃeɪk/
verb (used without object), shook, shaken, shaking.
to move or sway with short, quick, irregular vibratory movements.
to tremble with emotion, cold, etc.
to become dislodged and fall (usually followed by off or down):
Sand shakes off easily.
to move something, or its support or container, briskly to and fro or up and down, as in mixing:
Shake before using.
to totter; become unsteady.
to clasp another's hand in greeting, agreement, congratulations, etc.:
Let's shake and be friends again.
Music. to execute a trill.
verb (used with object), shook, shaken, shaking.
to move (something or its support or container) to and fro or up and down with short, quick, forcible movements:
to shake a bottle of milk.
to brandish or flourish:
to shake a stick at someone.
to grasp (someone or something) firmly in an attempt to move or rouse by, or as by, vigorous movement to and fro:
We shook the tree.
to dislodge or dispense (something) by short, quick, forcible movements of its support or container:
We shook nuts from the tree.
to cause to sway, rock, totter, etc.:
to shake the very foundations of society.
to agitate or disturb profoundly in feeling:
The experience shook him badly.
to cause to doubt or waver; weaken. to shake one's self-esteem.
Music. to trill (a note).
to mix (dice) by rolling in the palm of the hand before they are cast.
to get rid of; elude:
They tried to shake their pursuers.
an act or instance of shaking, rocking, swaying, etc.
tremulous motion.
a tremor.
shakes, (used with a singular verb) Informal. a state or spell of trembling, as caused by fear, fever, cold, etc. (usually preceded by the).
a disturbing blow; shock.
Informal. milk shake.
the act or a manner of clasping another's hand in greeting, agreement, etc.:
He has a strong shake.
Informal. chance or fate; deal:
a fair shake.
a cast of the dice:
He threw an eight on his last shake.
something resulting from shaking.
an earthquake.
a fissure in the earth.
an internal crack or fissure in timber.
Music. trill1 (def 9).
an instant:
I'll be with you in a shake.
Carpentry. a shingle or clapboard formed by splitting a short log into a number of tapered radial sections with a hatchet.
Horology. (in an escapement) the distance between the nearer corner of one pallet and the nearest tooth of the escape wheel when the other pallet arrests an escape tooth.
Chiefly South Midland U.S. shaker (def 2).
a dance deriving from the twist.
Slang. the dried leaves of the marijuana plant.
Verb phrases
shake down,
  1. to cause to descend by shaking; bring down.
  2. to cause to settle.
  3. to condition; test:
    to shake down a ship.
  4. Informal. to extort money from.
  5. Slang. to search (someone), especially to detect concealed weapons.
shake off,
  1. to rid oneself of; reject.
  2. to get away from; leave behind.
  3. Baseball, Softball. (of a pitcher) to indicate rejection of (a sign by the catcher for a certain pitch) by shaking the head or motioning with the glove.
shake up,
  1. to shake in order to mix or loosen.
  2. to upset; jar.
  3. to agitate mentally or physically:
    The threat of attack has shaken up the entire country.
no great shakes, Informal. of no particular ability; unimportant; common:
As opera companies go, this one is no great shakes.
shake a leg, Informal.
  1. to hurry up; get a move on:
    You'd better shake a leg or we'll miss the first act.
  2. to dance.
shake hands. hand (def 79).
shake one's head,
  1. to indicate disapproval, disagreement, negation, or uncertainty by turning one's head from one side to the other and back:
    I asked him if he knew the answer, but he just shook his head.
  2. to indicate approval, agreement, affirmation or acceptance by nodding one's head up and down.
shake the dust from one's feet. dust (def 26).
two shakes (of a lamb's tail), a very short time; a moment.
before 900; (v.) Middle English s(c)haken, Old English sceacan; cognate with Low German schacken, Old Norse skaka; (noun) derivative of the v.
Related forms
shakable, shakeable, adjective
reshake, verb, reshook, reshaken, reshaking.
unshakable, adjective
unshakablely, adverb
unshakeable, adjective
unshakeablely, adverb
unshaken, adjective
well-shaken, adjective
Can be confused
shake, sheik (see synonym study at the current entry)
1. oscillate, waver. Shake, quiver, tremble, vibrate refer to an agitated movement that, in living things, is often involuntary. To shake is to agitate more or less quickly, abruptly, and often unevenly so as to disturb the poise, stability, or equilibrium of a person or thing: a pole shaking under his weight. To quiver is to exhibit a slight vibratory motion such as that resulting from disturbed or irregular (surface) tension: The surface of the pool quivered in the breeze. To tremble (used more often of a person) is to be agitated by intermittent, involuntary movements of the muscles, much like shivering and caused by fear, cold, weakness, great emotion, etc.: Even stout hearts tremble with dismay. To vibrate is to exhibit a rapid, rhythmical motion: A violin string vibrates when a bow is drawn across it. 2. shudder, shiver. 14. daunt. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018.
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Examples from the Web for shake-down
Historical Examples
  • When it came time to retire Darry was given a shake-down in the second room.

    Darry the Life Saver Frank V. Webster
  • Often he would be found in the Reception Room just next to the shake-down Parlor.

    Ade's Fables George Ade
  • Well, you can give me a shake-down somewhere—in the billiard-room.

    Dolly Reforming Herself Henry Arthur Jones
  • Here's some pickles—they ain't good, but they'll do at a shake-down.

    Old Ebenezer

    Opie Read
  • Darting in, she fairly hauled me to the shake-down in the far corner.

    The Crossing Winston Churchill
  • "Put him in my bed and give me a shake-down on the floor," said Tembarom.

    T. Tembarom Frances Hodgson Burnett
  • You just go to Miss Burford and ask her to find you a shake-down.

  • I was at the shake-down in the evening—something quite beautiful.

    The Story of My Life, volumes 4-6 Augustus J. C. Hare
  • "The missus will make you a shake-down on the floor," he said.

    Children of the Bush Henry Lawson
  • Or maybe just looking the old ranch over with a view to a shake-down!

    Satan Sanderson

    Hallie Erminie Rives
British Dictionary definitions for shake-down


verb shakes, shaking, shook, shaken (ˈʃeɪkən)
to move or cause to move up and down or back and forth with short quick movements; vibrate
to sway or totter or cause to sway or totter
to clasp or grasp (the hand) of (a person) in greeting, agreement, etc: he shook John by the hand, he shook John's hand, they shook and were friends
shake hands, to clasp hands in greeting, agreement, etc
(informal) shake on it, to shake hands in agreement, reconciliation, etc
to bring or come to a specified condition by or as if by shaking: he shook free and ran
(transitive) to wave or brandish: he shook his sword
(transitive) often foll by up. to rouse, stir, or agitate
(transitive) to shock, disturb, or upset: he was shaken by the news of her death
(transitive) to undermine or weaken: the crisis shook his faith
to mix (dice) by rattling in a cup or the hand before throwing
(transitive) (Austral, archaic, slang) to steal
(transitive) (US & Canadian, informal) to escape from: can you shake that detective?
(music) to perform a trill on (a note)
(transitive) (US, informal) to fare or progress; happen as specified: how's it shaking?
(informal) shake a leg, to hurry: usually used in the imperative
shake in one's shoes, to tremble with fear or apprehension
shake one's head, to indicate disagreement or disapproval by moving the head from side to side
shake the dust from one's feet, to depart gladly or with the intention not to return
the act or an instance of shaking
a tremor or vibration
(informal) the shakes, a state of uncontrollable trembling or a condition that causes it, such as a fever
(informal) a very short period of time; jiffy: in half a shake
a shingle or clapboard made from a short log by splitting it radially
a fissure or crack in timber or rock
an instance of shaking dice before casting
(music) another word for trill1 (sense 1)
a dance, popular in the 1960s, in which the body is shaken convulsively in time to the beat
an informal name for earthquake
short for milk shake
(informal) no great shakes, of no great merit or value; ordinary
Derived Forms
shakable, shakeable, adjective
Word Origin
Old English sceacan; related to Old Norse skaka to shake, Old High German untscachōn to be driven
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
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Word Origin and History for shake-down

also shakedown, 1730, "impromptu bed made upon loose straw," from verbal phrase; see shake (v.) + down (adv.). Meaning "forced contribution" (1902) is from the verbal phrase in a slang sense "blackmail, extort" (1872). Meaning "a thorough search" is from 1914; perhaps from the notion of measuring corn. The oldest use of the verbal phrase shake down is "cause to totter and fall" (c.1400).



Old English sceacan "move (something) quickly to and fro, brandish; move the body or a part of it rapidly back and forth;" also "go, glide, hasten, flee, depart" (cf. sceacdom "flight"); of persons or parts of the body, "to tremble" especially from fever, cold, fear" (class VI strong verb; past tense scoc, past participle scacen), from Proto-Germanic *skakanan (cf. Old Norse, Swedish skaka, Danish skage "to shift, turn, veer"). No certain cognates outside Germanic, but some suggest a possible connection to Sanskrit khaj "to agitate, churn, stir about," Old Church Slavonic skoku "a leap, bound," Welsh ysgogi "move."

Of the earth in earthquakes, c.1300. Meaning "seize and shake (someone or something else)" is from early 14c. In reference to mixing ingredients, etc., by shaking a container from late 14c. Meaning "to rid oneself of by abrupt twists" is from c.1200, also in Middle English in reference to evading responsibility, etc. Meaning "weaken, impair" is from late 14c., on notion of "make unstable."

To shake hands dates from 1530s. Shake a (loose) leg "hurry up" first recorded 1904; shake a heel (sometimes foot) was an old way to say "to dance" (1660s); to shake (one's) elbow (1620s) meant "to gamble at dice." Phrase more _____ than you can shake a stick at is attested from 1818, American English. To shake (one's) head as a sign of disapproval is recorded from c.1300.



late 14c., "charge, onrush," from shake (v.). Meaning "a hard shock" is from 1560s. From 1580s as "act of shaking;" 1660s as "irregular vibration." The hand-grip salutation so called by 1712. As a figure of instantaneous action, it is recorded from 1816. Phrase fair shake "honest deal" is attested from 1830, American English. The shakes "nervous agitation" is from 1620s. Short for milk shake from 1911. Dismissive phrase no great shakes (1816, Byron) perhaps is from dicing.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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Slang definitions & phrases for shake-down



  1. rent party: charge a few coins and have a shake (1940s+)
  2. A moment; sec: Be ready in two shakes (1839+)
  3. Blackmail or extortion; shakedown: This isn't any kind of a shake (1930+)
  4. : We'd better give the entire house a shake; I know it's here somewhere


  1. To come to an agreement; shake hands: Let's shake and call it done (1873+)
  2. : tried to shake one of the big boys (1930+)
  3. To search a person or place thoroughly; shake down (1960s+)
  4. GIVE someone THE SHAKE (1883+)

Related Terms

a fair shake, half a shake, on the shake, skin-search, two shakes



  1. A night's lodging; an impromptu bed: I'll get a shakedown on the couch (1730+)
  2. An instance of or a demand for blackmail, extortion, etc; victimization by the protection racket: Listen, I know this is a shakedown (1902+ Underworld)
  3. thorough search of a person or place; shake: We gave the room a first-class shakedown (1914+)
  4. A trying-out or first tentative use, esp of a machine, ship, process, etc: Let's give this new idea a shakedown and see if it works (1930s+)

[final sense fr shakedown cruise; all senses fr the notion of a vigorous shaking of a person or place to reveal something hidden, a flaw, etc]

The Dictionary of American Slang, Fourth Edition by Barbara Ann Kipfer, PhD. and Robert L. Chapman, Ph.D.
Copyright (C) 2007 by HarperCollins Publishers.
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Idioms and Phrases with shake-down
The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary
Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.
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