\ˈshāk \
shook\ˈshu̇k \; shaken\ˈshā-​kən \; 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

b : earthquake

3 shakes plural

a : a condition of trembling or nervousness specifically : delirium tremens

b : malaria sense 2a

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 3 sense 3 a fair shake

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Other Words from shake


shakable or shakeable \ˈshā-​kə-​bəl \ 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


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.


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

President Donald Trump shakes hands with China's President Xi Jinping in Beijing in 2017. Jon Sindreu, WSJ, "Trade War or Peace, Europe Can’t Escape a Chinese Slowdown," 3 Dec. 2018 Kate shook hands with a group of children who seemed ecstatic to meet her. Erica Gonzales, Harper's BAZAAR, "Kate Middleton and Prince William Adorably Met Kids at Coach Core in Essex," 30 Oct. 2018 Down in the Hilton’s lobby, business hummed along, startup founders shaking hands with tech lobbyists and transportation researchers. Aarian Marshall, WIRED, "Home From the Honeymoon, the Self-Driving Car Industry Faces Reality," 13 July 2018 Russian President Vladimir Putin, right, shakes hands with Ali Akbar Velayati, a senior adviser to Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, at Novo-Ograyovo outside in Moscow, Russia, Thursday, July 12, 2018. Washington Post, "Iran has no intention to leave Syria, top official says," 13 July 2018 After his first two jumps over the cars and buses, Pastrana had a police escort while riding the same motorcycle along Las Vegas Boulevard all while popping wheelies and stopping to high-five and shake hands with fans. CBS News, "Travis Pastrana nails Evel Knievel's three legendary jumps in Las Vegas," 9 July 2018 North Korea's leader Kim Jong Un (L) shakes hands with US President Donald Trump (R) at the start of their historic US-North Korea summit, at the Capella Hotel on Sentosa island in Singapore on June 12, 2018. Kevin Kelleher, Fortune, "Mike Pompeo Giving Kim Jong Un ‘Rocket Man’ CD Signed by Trump, South Korean Paper Reports," 7 July 2018 In the luxury boxes, different heads of state shake hands with other different heads of state. Sam Anderson, New York Times, "New Sentences: From ‘What We Think About When We Think About Soccer’," 5 July 2018 Oake tried to move on from the gaffe by trying to shake hands with Kopitar, but Kopitar went straight to the stage. Eduardo Gonzalez,, "NHL Awards get awkward when card trick meant to celebrate Kings' Kopitar falls flat," 21 June 2018

Recent Examples on the Web: Noun

The shake-up comes as Alibaba and rival Chinese tech giants Tencent Holdings Ltd. and Baidu Inc. have ramped up spending in online video content. Shan Li, WSJ, "Alibaba Video-Streaming Chief Steps Down Amid Probe," 4 Dec. 2018 Nielsen’s not the only one possibly on the chopping block Trump has reportedly been considering an administration-wide shake-up in the wake of the midterms. Rachel Withers, Vox, "Trump refuses to commit to Kirstjen Nielsen continuing as DHS secretary into the future," 18 Nov. 2018 His departure marked a rare shake-up on Facebook’s insular M-team, whose composition had remained largely unchanged for many years. Casey Newton, The Verge, "How Facebook’s crisis PR firm triggered a PR crisis," 17 Nov. 2018 Had Democrats taken both houses of Congress, we maybe could have expected a regulatory shake-up. Verge Staff, The Verge, "What the new Congress means for space, self-driving cars, and regulating Facebook," 7 Nov. 2018 Shadowing the special counsel’s team is the looming likelihood that Trump could soon dismiss Attorney General Jeff Sessions — a shake-up that could spell the end of Deputy Attorney General Rod J. Rosenstein’s oversight of the investigation. Matt Zapotosky, The Seattle Times, "With the midterms over, special counsel Mueller faces key decisions in Russia investigation," 7 Nov. 2018 In a shake-up from previous years, both systems ship with Windows 10 Home rather than Pro. Peter Bright, Ars Technica, "Surface Pro 6 and Surface Laptop 2: New internals, new color, old ports," 3 Oct. 2018 Meeker is leading an exodus of late-stage investors from Kleiner Perkins in its most dramatic shake-up since legendary investor John Doerr stepped back from his role more than two years ago. Theodore Schleifer, Recode, "Mary Meeker, the legendary internet analyst, is leaving Kleiner Perkins," 14 Sep. 2018 Though Ginsburg is clearly still going strong after 25 years as a Supreme Court justice, the rest of the bench has recently undergone a major shake-up. Andrea Park, Teen Vogue, "Ruth Bader Ginsburg Said She Plans to Stay on the Supreme Court "At Least Five More Years"," 30 July 2018

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

11 Dec 2018

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for shake

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

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More Definitions for shake



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

the shakes : a condition in which parts of your body move in a way that you are not able to control


\ˈshāk \
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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More from Merriam-Webster on shake

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for shake

Spanish Central: Translation of shake

Nglish: Translation of shake for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of shake for Arabic Speakers Encyclopedia article about shake

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).


to make faulty or ineffective

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