\ ˈshāk How to pronounce shake (audio) \
shook\ ˈshu̇k How to pronounce shook (audio) \; shaken\ ˈshā-​kən How to pronounce shaken (audio) \; shaking

Definition of shake

 (Entry 1 of 2)

intransitive verb

1 : to move irregularly to and fro
2 : to vibrate especially as the result of a blow or shock
3 : to tremble as a result of physical or emotional disturbance shook with fear
4 : to experience a state of instability : totter
5 : to briskly move something to and fro or up and down especially in order to mix
6 : to clasp hands

transitive verb

1 : to brandish, wave, or flourish often in a threatening manner protesters shaking their fists
2 : to cause to move to and fro, up and down, or from side to side especially in a repetitive, rhythmic, or quick jerky manner shook his head in disapproval
3 : to cause to quake, quiver, or tremble
4a : to free oneself from shake a habit shake off a cold
b : to get away from : get rid of can you shake your friend? I want to talk to you alone— Elmer Davis
5 : to lessen the stability of : weaken shake one's faith
6 : to bring to a specified condition by or as if by repeated quick jerky movements shook himself loose from the man's grasp
7 : to dislodge or eject by quick jerky movements of the support or container shook the dust from the cloth
8 : to clasp (hands) in greeting or farewell or as a sign of goodwill or agreement
9 : to stir the feelings of : upset, agitate shook her up
shake a leg
1 : dance
2 : to hurry up
shake a stick at
: to form a conception of (as by counting or imagining) : conceive usually used in the phrase more than one can shake a stick at



Definition of shake (Entry 2 of 2)

1 : an act of shaking: such as
a : an act of shaking hands
b : an act of shaking oneself
2a : a blow or shock that upsets the equilibrium or disturbs the balance of something
3 shakes plural
a : a condition of trembling or nervousness specifically : delirium tremens
4 : something produced by shaking: such as
a : a fissure separating annual rings of growth in timber
b(1) : milkshake
(2) : a beverage resembling a milkshake a protein shake
5 : a wavering, quivering, or alternating motion caused by a blow or shock
6 : trill
7 : a very brief period of time I'll be there in two shakes
8 shakes plural : one that is exceptional especially in importance, ability, or merit usually used in the phrase no great shakes
9 : a shingle split from a piece of log usually three or four feet (about one meter) long
10 : deal entry 2 sense 3 a fair shake

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Other Words from shake


shakable or shakeable \ ˈshā-​kə-​bəl How to pronounce shakeable (audio) \ adjective

Choose the Right Synonym for shake


shake, agitate, rock, convulse mean to move up and down or to and fro with some violence. shake often carries a further implication of a particular purpose. shake well before using agitate suggests a violent and prolonged tossing or stirring. an ocean agitated by storms rock suggests a swinging or swaying motion resulting from violent impact or upheaval. the whole city was rocked by the explosion convulse suggests a violent pulling or wrenching as of a body in a paroxysm. spectators were convulsed with laughter

Examples of shake in a Sentence

Verb The ground shook during the earthquake. The house shook as the train rumbled by. The earthquake shook the ground. Shake the salad dressing well before using it. I was so nervous that I was shaking like a leaf. The fugitive couldn't shake the police. It's hard to shake the feeling that I'm forgetting something. The news did nothing to shake my belief that things will be okay. Nothing could shake his faith in God. Noun He responded to the question with a shake of his head. Give the dice a shake. He drank too much coffee and got a bad case of the shakes.
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Recent Examples on the Web: Verb For weeks, protests have shaken Santiago and other cities. The Christian Science Monitor, "A life overflowing with meaning," 8 Nov. 2019 In the end all Prentiss Hubb could do was shake his head. Mike Berardino, Indianapolis Star, "Cole Anthony, former Notre Dame recruit, sends Irish to 76-65 loss at North Carolina," 7 Nov. 2019 Adrian, who will later sell his soul to the Devil, is amused by his father’s reverence of the mysteries of nature and shakes with laughter, whereas Serenus is aghast. Karl Ove Knausgaard, The New Yorker, "The Slowness of Literature and the Shadow of Knowledge," 6 Nov. 2019 The explosion shook nearby homes and cars and the blast also damaged the car port of an adjacent home. Howard Koplowitz |, al, "East Lake explosion that killed 1, critically injured another ruled accidental," 6 Nov. 2019 The Republican governor shook the hands of dozens of women as they were released from the Dr. Eddie Warrior Correctional Center in Taft. Fox News, "More than 400 Oklahoma inmates released in largest US commutation," 5 Nov. 2019 Even so, Pavlova’s novel A Double Life shook the Russian literary world when it was published in 1848, earning widespread praise for its revolutionary form and psychological acuity. Talya Zax, The Atlantic, "The 19th-Century Feminist Novel Pushed Out of the Russian Canon," 5 Nov. 2019 And perhaps more importantly, shake off the ghost of Bedford North Lawrence, which eliminated the Red Devils in the playoffs for the last six years. David J. Kim, The Courier-Journal, "This could be the year Jeffersonville girls basketball overcomes Bedford North Lawrence," 4 Nov. 2019 Book, coming off a career-worst 73-yard passing night at Michigan, shook off another sloppy game to lead the winning drive in the waning moments. Mike Berardino, USA TODAY, "No. 16 Notre Dame needs late touchdown to get past Virginia Tech," 2 Nov. 2019 Recent Examples on the Web: Noun Nike, Under Armour and Bed Bath & Beyond announced similar shake-ups recently, extending the run of C-level departures — all men — that have touched more than a dozen major retailers this year, including Best Buy, eBay, Calvin Klein and Overstock. Abha Bhattarai, Washington Post, "Already struggling retailers face a new challenge: Finding a CEO," 8 Nov. 2019 Tis the season for shake-ups and break-ups While some campaigns are surging, other are reshuffling or packing it up all together. CBS News, "The five big things you need to understand about the Democratic primary right now," 8 Nov. 2019 Scandals and shake-ups dragged down some key players in early trading. Taylor Telford, Anchorage Daily News, "U.S. markets close at record highs, extending November’s record-setting start," 4 Nov. 2019 The disappearance of Barneys adds to the broader shake-up in Manhattan retail of the past few years, highlighted by the loss of stores that were once considered institutions and ambitious new projects from out-of-towners. New York Times, "Barneys Is Sold for Scrap, Ending an Era," 1 Nov. 2019 Halfway through the 2018 season, the Cleveland Browns underwent a shake-up that turned the team around. Mark Inabinett |, al, "Tackle Greg Robinson says he’s been benched by Browns," 26 Oct. 2019 All of which suggests that, quantum supremacy or not, Google's entry into this market won't provide an immediate shake-up. John Timmer, Ars Technica, "Here’s what the people who claimed Google’s quantum supremacy have to say about it," 24 Oct. 2019 The decision to pick a leader outside Nike’s executive ranks followed a shake-up over misconduct last year and a controversy about doping in sport in recent weeks. Los Angeles Times, "Nike CEO is stepping down but will remain executive chairman," 22 Oct. 2019 Now coach Jeff Brohm is considering a major shake-up. Don Markus,, "Maryland’s Javon Leake named Big Ten Special Teams Player of the Week after 100-yard TD vs. Rutgers," 7 Oct. 2019

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'shake.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

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First Known Use of shake


before the 12th century, in the meaning defined at intransitive sense 1


1581, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for shake


Middle English, from Old English sceacan; akin to Old Norse skaka to shake

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Statistics for shake

Last Updated

13 Nov 2019

Time Traveler for shake

The first known use of shake was before the 12th century

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More Definitions for shake


How to pronounce shake (audio)

English Language Learners Definition of shake

 (Entry 1 of 2)

: to move sometimes violently back and forth or up and down with short, quick movements
: to move or have parts of your body move in short, quick movements and in a way that you are not able to control
: to free yourself from (someone or something) : to get away from or get rid of (someone or something)



English Language Learners Definition of shake (Entry 2 of 2)

: a short, quick movement back and forth or up and down
informal : a condition in which parts of your body move in a way that you are not able to control


\ ˈshāk How to pronounce shake (audio) \
shook\ ˈshu̇k \; shaken\ ˈshā-​kən \; shaking

Kids Definition of shake

 (Entry 1 of 2)

1 : to make or cause to make quick movements back and forth or up and down The ground shook. Squirrels shook the branches.
2 : to tremble or make tremble : quiver She was so frightened her legs began to shake.
3 : to move from side to side I shook my head.
4 : to grasp and move up and down After reaching an agreement, they shook hands.
5 : to get away from She ran faster, but couldn't shake the dog.
6 : to make less firm : weaken After being beaten badly their confidence was shaken.
7 : to cause to be, become, go, or move by or as if by using a quick back and forth motion We can shake apples from the tree.



Kids Definition of shake (Entry 2 of 2)

: a quick back and forth or up and down movement

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Comments on shake

What made you want to look up shake? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


concealed or difficult to comprehend

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