\ ˈshāk How to pronounce shake (audio) \
shook\ ˈshu̇k How to pronounce shook (audio) \; shaken\ ˈshā-​kən How to pronounce shaken (audio) \; 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
3 shakes plural
a : a condition of trembling or nervousness specifically : delirium tremens
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 2 sense 3 a fair shake

Keep scrolling for more

Other Words from shake


shakable or shakeable \ ˈshā-​kə-​bəl How to pronounce shakeable (audio) \ 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

Verb 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. Noun 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.
See More
Recent Examples on the Web: Verb Keep a safe distance, if possible: Resist the temptation to shout, shake hands, hug or have face-to-face conversations with fellow protesters. USA Today, "Celebrating Biden's win, protesting Trump's loss safely amid COVID-19: A guide on what to wear, bring and plan for.," 8 Nov. 2020 Trump refusing to make that call is sort of like an athlete refusing to shake hands at the end of a game: poor form, but otherwise inconsequential. Kira Bindrim, Quartz, "What happens if a president refuses to concede?," 6 Nov. 2020 As commissioner of sewers I would not be called upon to pet babies, make speeches, shake hands; in fact, the fewer voters who knew of my existence, the better. William S. Burroughs, Harper's Magazine, "The Sultan of Sewers," 27 Oct. 2020 Carol Potratz, who worked as a teller at a bank, told a local paper that Kennedy came into the bank to shake hands and greet staff members. Evan Frank, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "Here's what John F. Kennedy did in Oconomowoc while he was there on a campaign stop 60 years ago," 21 Oct. 2020 Pope Francis apologized to the faithful Wednesday for not being able to greet them and shake their hands as Italy posted a record spike in coronavirus infections that is threatening to once again spiral out of control. Nicole Winfield, Star Tribune, "Pope apologizes for keeping distance as virus cases spike," 14 Oct. 2020 The high picks this year did not get the chance to hear their names called in a bustling arena or get to cross the stage and shake hands with Bettman, but one team still found a way to make the moment special for their selection. Jace Evans, USA TODAY, "'Jeopardy!' host Alex Trebek announces Ottawa Senators' selection in 2020 NHL draft," 7 Oct. 2020 James, afterward, declined to shake hands with any of the Magic, including Howard. Jonathan Abrams, New York Times, "LeBron James’s Teammates Beat Him, Then Joined Him," 6 Oct. 2020 This requires developing extrinsic survival behaviors — how to act in a kidnapping or a shipwreck is completely antithetical to the previously routine simple tasks of how to enter a building or shake hands with a friend. Neil Senturia, San Diego Union-Tribune, "Stockdale Paradox: Having faith but confronting reality," 8 Sep. 2020 Recent Examples on the Web: Noun Klain left his job about a month later and was hired back into Gore’s team only after a shake-up in the senior campaign leadership. Michael Scherer, Anchorage Daily News, "Biden picks Klain as chief of staff, signaling end of Trump-era chaos," 12 Nov. 2020 Several current and former Pentagon and administration officials expressed concern that the shake-up could usher in a period of instability and possibly even overseas adventurism. David E. Sanger, New York Times, "Trump Stacks the Pentagon and Intel Agencies With Loyalists. To What End?," 11 Nov. 2020 The Pentagon continued its recent shake-up on Tuesday with reports that President Trump has appointed Kash Patel to be the new Defense secretary's chief of staff. Abraham Mahshie, Washington Examiner, "Pentagon shake-up continues after Esper firing," 10 Nov. 2020 Three of the most senior executives at Japanese tech titan SoftBank were removed from the company’s board after activist investor Elliott Management called for a shake-up. Robert Hackett, Fortune, "What if Apple’s new Mac chips are trash?," 10 Nov. 2020 What’s your takeaway from covering the 2020 election amid this shake-up? Erica Gonzales, Harper's BAZAAR, "Covering the Campaign Trail When There Is No Trail," 2 Nov. 2020 District attorneys nationwide are rarely unseated and rarely punished for misconduct, experts say, making the push for Johnson’s removal even more striking — a shake-up in a race where the general election has not been competitive in decades. Washington Post, "Ahmaud Arbery’s case shook up a DA race in deep-red Georgia — and put accountability on the ballot," 30 Oct. 2020 That's why the election, and the potential for a shake-up after Election Day, seemed to permeate every step of the process of replacing Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg on the Supreme Court. Nicholas Wu, USA TODAY, "How will Amy Coney Barrett's confirmation battle affect Senate races?," 28 Oct. 2020 And the United States continues to pressure the Qaeda affiliate in Somalia, the Shabab, which may be undergoing a leadership shake-up. Eric Schmitt, New York Times, "Al Qaeda Feels Losses in Syria and Afghanistan but Stays Resilient," 27 Oct. 2020

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.

See More

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

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about shake

Time Traveler for shake

Time Traveler

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

See more words from the same century

Statistics for shake

Last Updated

26 Nov 2020

Cite this Entry

“Shake.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 30 Nov. 2020.

Keep scrolling for more

More Definitions for shake


How to pronounce shake (audio)

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


\ ˈshāk How to pronounce shake (audio) \
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

Keep scrolling for more

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).


Test Your Vocabulary

A Thanksgiving Word Quiz

  • a traditional thanksgiving dinner
  • November comes from a word for which of the following numbers?
Spell It

Can you spell these 10 commonly misspelled words?


Test Your Knowledge - and learn some interesting things along the way.

Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!