or shake-down



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.

Nearby words

  1. shake up,
  2. shake with laughter,
  3. shake-down,
  4. shake-out,
  5. shake-up,
  6. shaken,
  7. shaken baby syndrome,
  8. shakeout,
  9. shaker,
  10. shaker heights

Origin of shakedown

First recorded in 1490–1500; noun, adj. use of verb phrase shake down



verb (used without object), shook, shak·en, shak·ing.

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, shak·en, shak·ing.

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. extort money from.
  5. 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.

Origin of shake

before 900; (v.) Middle English s(c)haken, Old English sceacan; cognate with Low German schacken, Old Norse skaka; (noun) derivative of the v.

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.

Related forms
Can be confusedshake sheik (see synonym study at the current entry) Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for shake-down

British Dictionary definitions for shake-down


verb shakes, shaking, shook or 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, etche shook John by the hand; he shook John's hand; they shook and were friends
shake hands to clasp hands in greeting, agreement, etc
shake on it informal to shake hands in agreement, reconciliation, etc
to bring or come to a specified condition by or as if by shakinghe shook free and ran
(tr) to wave or brandishhe shook his sword
(tr often foll by up) to rouse, stir, or agitate
(tr) to shock, disturb, or upsethe was shaken by the news of her death
(tr) to undermine or weakenthe crisis shook his faith
to mix (dice) by rattling in a cup or the hand before throwing
(tr) Australian archaic, slang to steal
(tr) US and Canadian informal to escape fromcan you shake that detective?
music to perform a trill on (a note)
(tr) US informal to fare or progress; happen as specifiedhow's it shaking?
shake a leg informal 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
the shakes informal a state of uncontrollable trembling or a condition that causes it, such as a fever
informal a very short period of time; jiffyin 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 trill 1 (def. 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
no great shakes informal of no great merit or value; ordinary

Derived Formsshakable or shakeable, adjective

Word Origin for shake

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

Word Origin and History for shake-down
Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

Idioms and Phrases with shake-down


In addition to the idioms beginning with shake

  • shake a leg
  • shake a stick at
  • shake down
  • shake hands
  • shake in one's boots
  • shake off
  • shake one's head
  • shake someone's tree
  • shake the dust from one's feet
  • shake up
  • shake with laughter

also see:

  • all shook (shaken) up
  • fair shake
  • in two shakes
  • more than one can shake a stick at
  • movers and shakers
  • no great shakes
  • quake (shake) in one's boots
The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company.