[ sheyk ]
See synonyms for: shakeshakenshakesshaking on

verb (used without object),shook, shak·en, shak·ing.
  1. to move or sway with short, quick, irregular vibratory movements.

  2. to tremble with emotion, cold, etc.

  1. to become dislodged and fall (usually followed by off or down): Sand shakes off easily.

  2. to move something, or its support or container, briskly to and fro or up and down, as in mixing: Shake before using.

  3. to totter; become unsteady.

  4. to clasp another's hand in greeting, agreement, congratulations, etc.: Let's shake and be friends again.

  5. Music. to execute a trill.

verb (used with object),shook, shak·en, shak·ing.
  1. 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.

  2. to brandish or flourish: to shake a stick at someone.

  1. 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.

  2. to dislodge or dispense (something) by short, quick, forcible movements of its support or container: We shook nuts from the tree.

  3. to cause to sway, rock, totter, etc.: to shake the very foundations of society.

  4. to agitate or disturb profoundly in feeling: The experience shook him badly.

  5. to cause to doubt or waver; weaken: to shake one's self-esteem.

  6. Music. to trill (a note).

  7. to mix (dice) by rolling in the palm of the hand before they are cast.

  8. to get rid of; elude: They tried to shake their pursuers.

  1. an act or instance of shaking, rocking, swaying, etc.

  2. tremulous motion.

  1. a tremor.

  2. (the) shakes. Informal.(used with a singular verb) a state or spell of trembling, as caused by fear, fever, cold, etc.: I was up all night with a fever and the shakes.

  3. a disturbing blow; shock.

  4. Informal. milkshake.

  5. the act or a manner of clasping another's hand in greeting, agreement, etc.: He has a strong shake.

  6. Informal. chance or treatment; deal: a fair shake;a bum shake.: See also fair shake.

  7. a cast of the dice: He threw an eight on his last shake.

  8. something resulting from shaking.

  9. an earthquake.

  10. a fissure in the earth.

  11. an internal crack or fissure in timber.

  12. an instant: I'll be with you in a shake.

  13. Carpentry. a shingle or clapboard formed by splitting a short log into a number of tapered radial sections with a hatchet.

  14. 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.

  15. Chiefly South Midland U.S. shaker (def. 2).

  16. a dance deriving from the twist.

  17. Slang. the dried leaves of the marijuana plant.

Verb Phrases
  1. shake down,

    • to cause to descend by shaking; bring down.

    • to cause to settle.

    • to condition; test: to shake down a ship.

    • Informal. to extort money from.

    • Slang. to search (someone), especially to detect concealed weapons.

  2. shake off,

    • to rid oneself of; reject.

    • to get away from; leave behind.

    • 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.

  1. shake up,

    • to shake in order to mix or loosen.

    • to upset; jar.

    • to agitate mentally or physically: The threat of attack has shaken up the entire country.

Idioms about shake

  1. no great shakes, Informal. of no particular ability; unimportant; common:As opera companies go, this one is no great shakes.

  2. shake a leg, Informal.

    • to hurry up; get a move on: You'd better shake a leg or we'll miss the first act.

    • to dance.

  1. shake hands. hand (def. 80).

  2. shake one's head,

    • 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.

    • to indicate approval, agreement, affirmation or acceptance by nodding one's head up and down.

  3. shake the dust from one's feet. dust (def. 26).

  4. two shakes (of a lamb's tail), a very short time; a moment.

Origin of shake

First recorded before before 900; Middle English (verb) s(c)haken, Old English sceacan; cognate with Low German schacken, Old Norse skaka; the noun is derived from the verb

synonym study For shake

1. 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.

Other words for shake

Other words from shake

  • shak·a·ble, shake·a·ble, adjective
  • re·shake, verb, re·shook, re·shak·en, re·shak·ing.
  • un·shak·a·ble, adjective
  • un·shak·a·ble·ly, adverb
  • un·shake·a·ble, adjective
  • un·shake·a·ble·ly, adverb
  • un·sha·ken, adjective
  • well-shaken, adjective

Words that may be confused with shake

  • shake , sheik (see synonym study at the current entry) Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2023

How to use shake in a sentence

British Dictionary definitions for shake


/ (ʃeɪk) /

verbshakes, shaking, shook or shaken (ˈʃeɪkən)
  1. to move or cause to move up and down or back and forth with short quick movements; vibrate

  2. to sway or totter or cause to sway or totter

  1. 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

  2. shake hands to clasp hands in greeting, agreement, etc

  3. shake on it informal to shake hands in agreement, reconciliation, etc

  4. to bring or come to a specified condition by or as if by shaking: he shook free and ran

  5. (tr) to wave or brandish: he shook his sword

  6. (tr often foll by up) to rouse, stir, or agitate

  7. (tr) to shock, disturb, or upset: he was shaken by the news of her death

  8. (tr) to undermine or weaken: the crisis shook his faith

  9. to mix (dice) by rattling in a cup or the hand before throwing

  10. (tr) Australian archaic, slang to steal

  11. (tr) US and Canadian informal to escape from: can you shake that detective?

  12. music to perform a trill on (a note)

  13. (tr) US informal to fare or progress; happen as specified: how's it shaking?

  14. shake a leg informal to hurry: usually used in the imperative

  15. shake in one's shoes to tremble with fear or apprehension

  16. shake one's head to indicate disagreement or disapproval by moving the head from side to side

  17. shake the dust from one's feet to depart gladly or with the intention not to return

  1. the act or an instance of shaking

  2. a tremor or vibration

  1. the shakes informal a state of uncontrollable trembling or a condition that causes it, such as a fever

  2. informal a very short period of time; jiffy: in half a shake

  3. a shingle or clapboard made from a short log by splitting it radially

  4. a fissure or crack in timber or rock

  5. an instance of shaking dice before casting

  6. music another word for trill 1 (def. 1)

  7. a dance, popular in the 1960s, in which the body is shaken convulsively in time to the beat

  8. an informal name for earthquake

  9. short for milk shake

  10. no great shakes informal of no great merit or value; ordinary

Origin of shake

Old English sceacan; related to Old Norse skaka to shake, Old High German untscachōn to be driven

Derived forms of shake

  • shakable or shakeable, adjective

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

Other Idioms and Phrases with shake


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.