\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

As for the metabolic energy cost, once the virtual bridge began to shake, the simulated walkers widened their steps—a much less energy-efficient gait. Jennifer Ouellette, Ars Technica, "New study sheds more light on what caused Millennium Bridge to wobble," 30 Oct. 2018 Just be careful not to shake your head or move too quickly; this isn't the most secure of styles. Chloe Metzger, Marie Claire, "Emma Stone Wore Roses in Her Hair and the Internet Can't Deal," 1 Oct. 2018 The feelings can hijack your well-being, wrecking your sleep and concentration and leaving you with hard-to-shake nerves. Sarah Richards, Woman's Day, "Quiet Your Mind in Anxious Times With These Expert Tricks," 14 Aug. 2018 More than 3 billion years ago, a massive volcanic eruption is thought to have shaken Mars, ejecting rock, dust, gas, and volcanic ash high into the Martian skies. Jay Bennett, Popular Mechanics, "Nearly All the Dust on Mars Comes From One Rock Formation," 26 July 2018 My biggest regret is not being able to shake his hand as Sacha Baron Cohen or interview him (as himself). Jeremy Barr, The Hollywood Reporter, "Conservative Radio Host: How I Got Pranked by Sacha Baron Cohen," 12 July 2018 Typically, inaugural greeting sessions of past mayors have lasted several hours — with family, friends and ordinary citizens all lining up and waiting for a chance to shake hands or to embrace the incoming mayor. Matier & Ross,, "Is San Francisco Mayor Farrell’s big idea of internet-for-all leaving office with him?," 4 July 2018 That would be the department once run by McCall, the department that was unable to shake the stink of brutality and discrimination from its boots until well into the 1980s. Lauren Ritchie,, "Statue of Confederate general is no 'piece of art,' has no place in Lake County museum," 1 July 2018 Luna said Argueta drove them away to try to shake the police but eventually pulled over several yards away from her mother's house on Avenue L, where Argueta was shot. Nick Powell, Houston Chronicle, "Teen suspect was running from Galveston police after traffic stop when shot, sheriff says," 26 June 2018

Recent Examples on the Web: Noun

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 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, Glamour, "Ruth Bader Ginsburg Says She Plans on Staying on the Supreme Court Until She's 90," 30 July 2018 This is music with shake-you-up hooks, frenzied tempos, gnarly guitars and anthemic vocals. Jeff Milo, Detroit Free Press, "Detroit music: Idiot Kids at Outer Limits, Nick Speed at the Old Miami," 5 July 2018 Vegan restaurants, meanwhile, have sprung up in Paris and edgy bits of other cities, serving raw food, kale and green shakes to végétaliens. The Economist, "French vegans are tormenting France’s butchers," 5 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

13 Nov 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

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