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 first-season shakedown cruise extended into February. Paul Daugherty,, "Doc's Morning Line: Why Xavier is the most consistently satisfying sports team in town," 13 Nov. 2019 Yet that case will certainly lose merit if investigators find GM to be just as culpable as FCA in what appears to be a sordid game of bribes, shakedowns, and embezzlements. Clifford Atiyeh, Car and Driver, "Federal Government Subpoenas GM Financial Documents from 2005–2019," 29 Apr. 2020 The 12-mile run from downtown Anchorage to Campbell Airstrip is a great shakedown cruise that carries no pressure. John Schandelmeier, Anchorage Daily News, "If you’re a fan, the Iditarod is coming. If you’re a racer, the Iditarod is here.," 29 Feb. 2020 The most bizarre account of an online shakedown involving the coronavirus was recently described by Paul Ducklin, a writer for the cybersecurity firm Sophos. John Maccormack,, "Coronavirus crisis brings wave of scams," 23 Mar. 2020 The whole Mueller investigation was a shakedown and a disgrace. Philip Rucker, Anchorage Daily News, "‘Something has to be done’: Trump’s quest to rewrite history of the Russia probe," 16 Feb. 2020 At his 2011 retrial, he was convicted of three separate shakedown attempts — one involving a children's hospital, one involving a racetrack, and one involving the Senate seat. NBC News, "'Erosion of public trust': The real reasons why Rod Blagojevich was sentenced to prison," 8 Aug. 2019 The strategy, experts said, was to sow enough doubts about Ukraine's actions to build a case that Trump's pressure on the country stemmed from legitimate policy concerns, and was not part of a politically motivated shakedown, as Democrats contend. Courtney Subramanian, USA TODAY, "Why Trump's Senate GOP allies are pushing accusations of Ukraine election meddling," 14 Dec. 2019 Konovalov characterized the move as a money-grabbing shakedown from the current leadership at Rambler, inspired by Nginx's $670 million acquisition by American tech giant F5 Networks approximately six months earlier. Jim Salter, Ars Technica, "Russian media group Rambler attempting to hold Nginx hostage," 16 Dec. 2019 Recent Examples on the Web: Verb 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 Already in Naples, the Italian media has reported that the Camorra is using the pretext of delivering food to be on the streets to sell drugs, or to shake down shop owners for donations to the poor. Jason Horowitz, New York Times, "For Southern Italy, the Coronavirus Becomes a War on 2 Fronts," 21 Apr. 2020 Barzani said the militants are living off the land, shaking down the local villagers for food and money. Washington Post, "ISIS at a crossroads," 24 Dec. 2019 Mitchell repeats, and appears to believe, allegations that the F.B.I. essentially deputized a mobster to shake down a frightened Klansman for information. Randall Kennedy, New York Times, "The Journalist and the Murderers," 10 Mar. 2020 Suddenly, the case against Donald Trump isn’t built around his trashing of democratic norms, his truckling to Vladimir Putin, or his treachery in shaking down Ukraine. Walter Shapiro, The New Republic, "A Case for Unity," 16 Mar. 2020 As recently as two years ago, one Arthur Avenue restaurateur went to prison for shaking down gamblers who owed him money. Helene Stapinski, New York Times, "How Little Italy Became Little Albanian-Mexican Italy," 13 Mar. 2020 These current and former employees were apparently emboldened to speak out after Alonso was accused in his home state of New Jersey of shaking down campaign contributors for his own consulting firm, the Cratos Group. Daniel Bice, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "Two local officials named leaders of DNC 2020 Host Committee in wake of staff shake-up," 28 Feb. 2020 The House of Representatives has accused the president of trying to shake down a foreign leader for personal gain. Lisa Mascaro, Anchorage Daily News, "Trump’s trial begins, senators vowing ‘impartial justice’," 17 Jan. 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

30 May 2020

Cite this Entry

“Shakedown.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 2 Jul. 2020.

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More Definitions for shakedown


How to pronounce shake down (audio)

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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