shake·​down | \ ˈshāk-ˌdau̇n How to pronounce shakedown (audio) \

Definition of shakedown

 (Entry 1 of 2)

1 : an improvised bed (such as one made up on the floor)
2 : a boisterous dance
3 : an act or instance of shaking someone down especially : extortion
4 : a thorough search
5 : a process or period of adjustment
6 : a testing under operating conditions of something new (such as a ship) for possible faults and defects and for familiarizing the operators with it

shake down

shook down; shaken down; shaking down; shakes down

Definition of shake down (Entry 2 of 2)

intransitive verb

1a : to take up temporary quarters
b : to occupy an improvised or makeshift bed
2a : to become accustomed especially to new surroundings or duties
b : to settle down

transitive verb

1 : to obtain money from in a deceitful, contemptible, or illegal manner racketeers shaking down store owners for protection
2 : to make a thorough search of
3 : to bring about a reduction of
4 : to give a shakedown test to shook down the vessel before its maiden voyage

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Examples of shakedown in a Sentence

Noun He was the victim of a shakedown by a street gang. The guards conducted a shakedown of the prisoners' cells to look for weapons. They're putting the system through a shakedown. Verb the rumor is that he started his career shaking people down as an enforcer for the mob
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Recent Examples on the Web: Noun The second part involves the alleged shakedown of marijuana vendors from 2016 to 2019, when Correia was voted out of office following his indictment., "‘Shakedowns’ at center of former Fall River mayor’s federal corruption trial, prosecutors say," 26 Apr. 2021 That process, which involves the businesses making payments to cities and towns, is the subject of an ongoing federal investigation, and has long been derided by the industry as little more than a legal shakedown., "Marijuana store sues Haverhill, saying steep ‘impact’ fees are not justified," 7 Apr. 2021 The team will be at IMS this week to observe the test with their chief mechanic and hopes to make an early-May shakedown-type run with driver RC Enerson in a month or so. Nathan Brown, The Indianapolis Star, "IMS hosting 32-car IndyCar test this week; action closed to public, available on Peacock," 6 Apr. 2021 His war in Yemen and the shakedown of about 200 allegedly corrupt princes and businessmen inside Riyadh's plush five-star Ritz Carlton hotel in November 2017 put his reputation under a cloud. Nic Robertson, CNN, "The court of international public opinion long ago found MBS guilty over Khashoggi murder. The US has just caught up," 27 Feb. 2021 The corporate spending on campaigns resembles a shakedown, or a pay-to-play game, according to Douglas Melamed, a professor at Stanford Law School and former general counsel at Intel. John Detrixhe, Quartz, "American democracy is still under attack—by corporate influence," 15 Jan. 2021 As ambassador, Sondland undermined his State Department colleagues by serving as a back channel during Trump's attempted shakedown of the Ukrainian government. Mattathias Schwartz, Star Tribune, "A million dollars to spare? You can buy an ambassadorship.," 27 Dec. 2020 Think of the Ukraine shakedown (over which Trump was impeached). Jay Nordlinger, National Review, "Vote Your Conscience," 28 Oct. 2020 Coming in hot off the heels of summer spending and end-of-season markdowns, some shoppers need a break from giving their budgets a figurative shakedown and many retailers an intermission from flash-sale dances. Elizabeth Buxton,, "Classy Sweats, $20 Fan-Favorite Pillows, & The Rest Of September’s Bestsellers According To You," 29 Sep. 2020 Recent Examples on the Web: Verb Andrews was accused of assisting the alderman in attempting to shake down two businessmen seeking to renovate a Burger King restaurant in the 14th Ward. Jason Meisner,, "Federal prosecutors allege Ald. Ed Burke made anti-Semitic remark, detail ex-Ald. Solis cooperation in new court filing," 21 Apr. 2021 This was an epic bamboozle, where a crusading Big Green lawyer used courts in Ecuador to shake down Chevron for $18 billion. Jack Fowler, National Review, "The Lefty Media Come to the Aid of History’s Champion Scammer," 15 Apr. 2021 Burke is facing public corruption charges for allegedly trying to shake down business owners seeking help at City Hall. Lisa Donovan,, "The Spin: In interview, Duckworth says she’d consider a Biden Cabinet spot if offered | Lightfoot on COVID-19 orders and mixed messages | Illinois at ‘crisis level’ with virus, Pritzker says," 13 Nov. 2020 It’s the latest strain of ransomware built to shake down big-game targets for millions—with attacks that are couched in an uncanny air of professionalism. Brian Barrett, Wired, "Ransomware Has Gone Corporate. Where Will It End?," 26 Aug. 2020 Andrews was accused of assisting the alderman in attempting to shake down two businessmen seeking to renovate a Burger King restaurant in the 14th Ward. Jason Meisner,, "Lawyers for indicted Ald. Edward Burke say feds bungled wiretaps, call post office scheme a set-up," 20 Aug. 2020 The 63-year-old was convicted in 2011 of crimes that included seeking to sell an appointment to Barack Obama’s old Senate seat and trying to shake down a children’s hospital. Michael Tarm, The Denver Post, "Former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich released from Colorado prison after Trump commutes sentence," 18 Feb. 2020 By this point, the world has seen a few large-scale meltdowns stem from ransomware-style attacks, where hacker groups encrypt sensitive files and shake down the owners for money. Brian Barrett, Wired, "The Garmin Hack Was a Warning," 1 Aug. 2020 Marrocco is accused of using an aide and others to shake down builders and contractors for donations to his fundraisers. Christina Hall, Detroit Free Press, "Ex-public works boss Anthony Marrocco released on $100K bond in corruption probe," 1 June 2020

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'shakedown.' 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 shakedown


circa 1730, in the meaning defined at sense 1


circa 1859, in the meaning defined at intransitive sense 1a

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Time Traveler for shakedown

Time Traveler

The first known use of shakedown was circa 1730

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Statistics for shakedown

Last Updated

9 May 2021

Cite this Entry

“Shakedown.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 12 May. 2021.

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More Definitions for shakedown



English Language Learners Definition of shakedown

US : the act of taking something (such as money) from someone by using threats or deception
US : a thorough search of something
: a thorough test of a new ship, airplane, etc., in order to make sure there are no problems or defects

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