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


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.


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

In October, Combs set a new top speed of 483.2 mph in a shakedown run. Doug Criss, CNN, "Jessi Combs remembered for being more than just a race car driver," 29 Aug. 2019 The comment alone is potentially destabilizing and sounds like a mob shakedown. Author: David Nakamura, Simon Denyer, Anchorage Daily News, "Trump again appears to take North Korea’s side against his own military, allies," 10 Aug. 2019 As is Dance Moms tradition, the competition lead to a verbal shakedown between the two young dancer's mothers. Laura Hanrahan, Woman's Day, "Watch 'Dance Moms' Stars Elliana Walmsley and Lilly Ketchman Recreate Jojo Siwa’s Solos," 27 July 2019 The four family members arrived in Denmark late last month and took the boat, dubbed Verbena, out for a for a few short shakedown sails. Scott Kirsner,, "Sailing like entrepreneurs: High-seas adventure, education await family of Workbar founder," 5 Aug. 2019 Yet for all the savagery dealt out to the immigrant — the callousness of his government, the shakedowns of the coyotes and cartels, the exploitation of his labor by new American employers — the immigrant himself is not entirely innocent. Victor Davis Hanson, National Review, "The Selfish Actors of Illegal Immigration," 16 July 2019 Moreno’s alleged shakedown of the Colombian politician, who was secretly working undercover for U.S. authorities, led to the high-ranking Colombian official’s arrest in Bogotá a year ago. Jay Weaver, miamiherald, "He was Colombia's anti-corruption chief. Now, he's facing bribery charges in Miami.," 19 May 2018 Apollo 9 was a shakedown cruise in Earth orbit, with the command module and the lunar lander practicing the orbital rendezvous that would be necessary for the moon mission. The Washington Post,, "How did NASA put men on the moon? One harrowing step at a time," 19 June 2019 Inside, a pair of company engineers is performing a shakedown flight to validate the design. Joe Pappalardo, Popular Mechanics, "A 10-Year Odyssey: What Space Stations Will Look Like in 2030," 10 June 2019

Recent Examples on the Web: Verb

At the time, officers were often assigned to shake down beer joints near closing time to check for rowdy customers who might create disturbances. Joe Simnacher And Marc Ramirez,, "Jim Leavelle, detective in historic photo of Lee Harvey Oswald’s shooting, dies," 30 Aug. 2019 Further Reading How Qualcomm shook down the cell phone industry for almost 20 years Apple began shipping iPhones with Intel modems, and Qualcomm sued for patent infringement, among other things. Samuel Axon, Ars Technica, "Apple acquires Intel’s 5G smartphone modem business for $1 billion," 25 July 2019 Less than 24 hours after resigning from office, the former mayor of Scranton, Pennsylvania pleaded guilty on Tuesday to shaking down businesses for both bribes and campaign contributions during his term and a half in office. Andrew O'reilly | Fox News, Fox News, "Ex-Scranton mayor pleads guilty to bribery, extortion and conspiracy charges," 3 July 2019 His other convictions included trying to shake down a Chicago children’s hospital. Michael Tarm, The Denver Post, "Trump, getting facts wrong, says he may free Rod Blagojevich, who’s in a Colorado federal prison," 8 Aug. 2019 Corrupt mainland officials could also shake down Hong Kong businesses with the mere threat of extradition. The Editorial Board, WSJ, "How the U.S. Can Help Hong Kong," 16 June 2019 Of the 128, many were shaken down by earthquakes; many now are closed. Frances Mayes, National Geographic, "Discover Italy’s most delicious secret," 11 July 2019 Upgrading characters makes those abilities more powerful, but locking it behind a paid, random loot box system feels like shaking down players for real-world cash. Chaim Gartenberg, The Verge, "Dr. Mario World feels more like Candy Crush than the classic NES game," 8 July 2019 Oakland was the first city to have an outside agency come and review their police force due to complaints in the late 40s when a lot of shipyard workers were complaining about getting shaken down by OPD. David Debolt, The Mercury News, "How Bruce Lee, a bus called ‘Aunt Clara,’ and 500 gallons of patrol car booze have a place in East Bay history," 23 June 2019

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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Statistics for shakedown

Last Updated

6 Sep 2019

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for shakedown

The first known use of shakedown was circa 1730

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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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Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with shakedown

Comments on shakedown

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


one from the Upper Peninsula of Michigan

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