Definition of shake in English:

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Pronunciation: /SHāk/

verb (past shook /SHo͝ok/; past participle shaken /ˈSHākən/)

1 [no object] (Of a structure or area of land) tremble or vibrate: buildings shook in Sacramento and tremors were felt in Reno
More example sentences
  • The entire area shook from the attack, and I was sure Logan was cursing at me.
  • The whole area shook as pieces of the ceiling began to rain down on them.
  • Morgan braced himself as the process began; the whole room shook as the generators began churning out an unearthly hum.
vibrate, tremble, quiver, quake, shiver, shudder, jiggle, wobble, rock, sway;
1.1 [with object] Cause to tremble or vibrate: a severe earthquake shook the area
More example sentences
  • From the courtyard, the explosion of a grenade shook the house.
  • On the bridge, the explosion nearly shook everyone to the deck.
  • The explosion shook the fortress and hurled her to the floor.
1.2(Of a person, a part of the body, or the voice) tremble uncontrollably from a strong emotion such as fear or anger: Luke was shaking with rage her voice shook with passion
More example sentences
  • Tears spilt from gray eyes as Suki's body shook with uncontrolled emotion.
  • Her whole body shook with emotion as she strode blindly along some path.
  • Chance watched her for a few moments, her body shaking with emotion.
2 [with object] Move (an object) up and down or from side to side with rapid, forceful, jerky movements: she stood in the hall and shook her umbrella
More example sentences
  • I sit up in my bunk and swing my legs over the side, shaking my foot violently.
  • She grabbed at her stomach as forced laughter shook her sides.
  • And then the car flipped over tossing them into the side of something and shaking them about violently.
jiggle, joggle, agitate
2.1Remove (an object or substance) from something by movements of this kind: they shook the sand out of their shoes
More example sentences
  • Jim led the way down the hallway and up the stairs to their front door, shaking water off his jacket as he removed it.
  • I pulled my head up from underwater and gasped air, shaking water out of my hair in a spray of droplets.
  • He shook water droplets from his chocolate brown hair and put a dark gray vest over his black and gray striped sweater.
2.2 informal Get rid of or put an end to (something unwanted): he was unable to shake off the memories of the trenches
More example sentences
  • She tried in vain to break the restraints or shake off the helmet.
  • But I could never shake off the loneliness that comes from being different from the majority.
  • He could never shake off his image as a somewhat effete elitist from America's prosperous northeast.
2.3Grasp (someone) and move them roughly to and fro, either in anger or to rouse them from sleep: [with object and complement]: he gently shook the driver awake and they set off
More example sentences
  • After a few more moments of simply staring at the young man she smiled wide, grasping his shoulders and shaking him gently.
  • At 5 am, I was shaken awake from my sleep by the dissonant sound of drumbeats and jarring notes emerging from a defunct synthesizer.
  • She felt someone grasp her arms and begin shaking her roughly.
2.4Brandish in anger or as a warning; make a threatening gesture with: men shook their fists and shouted
More example sentences
  • I turned before I left and shook my fist threateningly at him, then slammed his door.
  • Governments that desire otherwise can only shake their fist in anger.
  • Glen shook his fist in mock anger, and was answered by another stuck-out-tongue.
brandish, wave, flourish, swing, wield
3 [with object] Upset the composure of; shock or astonish: rumors of a further loss shook the market the fall shook him up quite badly (as adjective shaken) she was visibly shaken and upset when she returned
More example sentences
  • The town was shocked and shaken by a very horrible tragedy.
  • For the next two nights, Kimmel was visibly shaken and uncomfortable.
  • A publicist arrives to announce Drew is visibly shaken.
upset, distress, disturb, unsettle, disconcert, discompose, disquiet, unnerve, trouble, throw off balance, agitate, fluster;
shock, alarm, frighten, scare, worry
informal rattle
weaken, undermine, damage, impair, harm;
reduce, diminish, decrease
3.1Cause a change of mood or attitude by shocking or disturbing (someone): he had to shake himself out of his lethargy
More example sentences
  • The chime of the Hub Tower clock shook her from her practice.
  • Someone stepping on his foot shook him to reality again, Sally's big eyes willed him to stay in focus, but he just couldn't.
  • He looked genuinely confused for a moment, and then visibly shook himself.


1An act of shaking: with a shake of its magnificent antlers the stag charged down the slope camera shake causes the image to become blurred
More example sentences
  • Camera shake is one of the most common flaws in any video production and yet it can easily be reduced.
  • The walls seemed to stretch and reach forever, but the young man just dispelled the image with a shake of his head.
  • He gave a single shake of his head and knit his brow.
jiggle, joggle
flourish, brandish, wave
1.1 informal An earth tremor.
1.2An amount of something that is sprinkled by shaking a container: add a few shakes of sea salt and black pepper
More example sentences
  • Season clam juice or chicken stock with smashed garlic, grated ginger, a shot of sake and a few shakes of soy sauce.
  • I mixed all these together with the conch, a tablespoon of fresh lime juice, a pinch of salt, and a few shakes of Tabasco.
  • Tip handfuls of pale, hard goosegogs into a stainless steel pan and sprinkle them generously with unrefined golden sugar and a few good shakes of water - just enough to stop the fruit sticking.
1.3 short for milk shake.
Example sentences
  • The beverages at our first Beverly Hills restaurant were basic - shakes, malts, iced tea.
  • It's used in fruit shakes in Laos, coffee in Thailand and Vietnam and in America it's the corner stone for Florida's Key Lime Pie.
  • The menu also features salmon, beer can chicken, large shakes and specialty margaritas.
1.4 (the shakes) informal A fit of trembling or shivering: I wouldn’t go in there, it gives me the shakes
More example sentences
  • Whatever he had planned for him today, he doubted that the shakes and a cold sweat would go over well.
  • The steroid in the cocktail had the side effect of the shakes along with keeping his lungs alive.
  • By some small miracle, his leg had gone undamaged, but he had since contracted a severe case of the shakes.
tremors, delirium tremens
informal DTs, jitters, the creeps, the shivers, willies, heebie-jeebies, the jim-jams
2 Music A trill.
Example sentences
  • But he also interprets the shaking in musical terms using tremolos and trills, which can themselves be described as shakes.



get (or give someone) a fair shake

North American informal Get (or give someone) just treatment or a fair chance: I do not believe he gave the industry a fair shake
More example sentences
  • People who think it's all twee warbling over burbly synths just aren't giving them a fair shake.
  • Do you feel like there are journalists who are biased against you and don't necessarily give you a fair shake?
  • And given the opportunity to see the evidence, they're going to come to their own conclusion and, I hope, give him a fair shake.

in two shakes (of a lamb's tail)

informal Very quickly: I’ll be back to you in two shakes
More example sentences
  • Having a broadband connection means that, as consumers, we can enjoy instant e-mail, watch live television on our PCs, or download music and large files in two shakes of a lamb's tail!
  • No, my dear, Nell and I will be happy to drop you off since we're already going that way, so just sit yourself down, have a Poptart and we'll all be ready to go in two shakes of a lamb's tail.
  • Well, I'll be back in two shakes of a lamb's tail with some antiseptic.

more —— than one can shake a stick at

informal Used to emphasize the largeness of an amount: a team with more experience than you can shake a stick at
More example sentences
  • By day two this team were cranking out more new ideas than you could shake a stick at.
  • It was a bad action film, bad comedy & contained more stereotypes than you could shake a stick at.
  • ‘I was very scared because I thought it was going to be chock full of people with more degrees than you could shake a stick at,’ she said.

no great shakes

informal Not very good or significant: it is no great shakes as a piece of cinema
More example sentences
  • As it turns out, we find a nice, pleasant, amusing little buddy-cop comedy - no great shakes, no real moments of brilliance, but consistent amusement throughout.
  • The steak et frites, despite being a star dish (there's even a neon ‘steak et frites’ sign outside), was no great shakes.
  • It's no great shakes, but it lets me know what to expect.
not very good, unexceptional, unmemorable, forgettable, uninspired, uninteresting, indifferent, unimpressive, lackluster
informal nothing to write home about, nothing special

shake the dust off one's feet

Leave indignantly or disdainfully.
Example sentences
  • When you are discussing it, at what point do you ‘shake the dust off your feet’ and move on?
  • No, you just have to kind of, like our Lord said, kind of shake the dust off your feet and walk away.
  • If, after a period of time, there is no response, then they shake the dust off their feet and move on.

shake hands (with someone , or shake someone by the hand or shake someone's hand)

Clasp someone’s right hand in one’s own at meeting or parting, in reconciliation or congratulation, or as a sign of agreement.
Example sentences
  • He shook Matt 's hand and then clasped Sarah's hand for a moment.
  • Dom laughed and shook Ash 's hand in agreement to the bet.
  • Ken Ferrari looked towards me, shaking my hand in congratulations.

shake one's head

Turn one’s head from side to side in order to indicate refusal, denial, disapproval, or incredulity: she shook her head in disbelief
More example sentences
  • When she laid her hand on her grey suedes, she could see him shaking his head in disapproval.
  • Now, I have to go think of new ways to make my relatives shake their head in disapproval at me.
  • He offered me another sandwich, but I shook my head and indicated I was full.

shake (or quake) in one's shoes (or boots)

Tremble with apprehension.
Example sentences
  • I on the other hand, am totally afraid, practically shaking in my boots.
  • She seemed more perturbed and bemused than shaking in her boots.
  • Are ad makers shaking in their shoes when they think about the impact of globalisation and the assertive entry of agencies and influences from abroad?

shake a leg

informal Make a start; rouse oneself: come on, shake a leg

Phrasal verbs


shake down

Become established in a new place or situation; settle down: it was disruptive to the industry as it was shaking down after deregulation
More example sentences
  • Both this case and the Sterling case are shaking down as classic struggles between academic integrity and the power and influence of big business on university campuses.
  • As the dairy industry shakes down because of all this, there are winners and there are losers, and there are those who are hanging in there against all the odds because it's simply too hard or too heartbreaking to get out.
  • The Usher Hall, normally so Edwardian, upright and slightly stuffy, slips off its tiara and shakes down to something a bit more comfortable.

shake someone down

North American informal Extort money from someone.
Example sentences
  • They even came by his desk and shook him down for the money.
  • She didn't shake me down for lunch money or even touch me.
  • And the responsibility stops there, and the solution to every wrong created in the society is not to rush into a court and see if we cane shake somebody down for a bunch of money?

shake something down

Cause something to fall or settle by shaking.
Example sentences
  • The rancher removed a thermometer from his pocket, shook it down and placed it in the left vent of the fireplace, carefully timing the operation with his wristwatch.
  • It's even less of a shock if you get the chance to watch them take hold of the stage and shake the house down.
  • Another fire gutted the old station and office building, which had been set aside for preservation, and its remains were shaken down by an earthquake a little while later.

shake someone off

Get away from someone by shaking their grip loose.
Example sentences
  • She tried to hold the hand of a slightly older girl who freaked out and shook her off, but she seemed content enough even when the lights dimmed down to black.
  • Another night a young boy clasped me - I just couldn't shake him off - and begged me to get him into a film after he had got a knock-back at the door from the police.
  • He stayed on for all of an instant before the dragon began trying to shake him off wildly, bucking and throwing Dean forward.
4.1Manage to evade or outmaneuver someone who is following or pestering one: he thought he had shaken off his pursuer
More example sentences
  • He tried to shake her off but couldn't quite manage it.
  • But much to the Americans' surprise, the Eurofighter shook them off, outmanoeuvred them and moved into shooting positions on their tails.
  • If by some chance you attract un-cool people, you manage to shake them off with your rapier wit.
get away from, escape, elude, dodge, lose, leave behind, get rid of, give someone the slip, throw off the scent
4.2(In sports, especially a race) outdistance another competitor: in the final lap she looked as though she had shaken off the Dutch girl
More example sentences
  • They differ about the means of shaking the Indonesians off, but shaken off they agree they must be.
  • Then, of course, Andersson accelerated and shook him off to win.
  • But try as Cork did they just could not shake Waterford off.

shake something off

Successfully deal with or recover from an illness or injury: she has shaken off a virus
More example sentences
  • He shook the memory off and looked at Jonas warily.
  • With that, Sam shook the memory off and turned her horse around.
  • Before today, every time Sophie visited this memory, she shook it off as coincidence.
recover from, get over;
get rid of, free oneself from

shake on

informal Confirm (an agreement) by shaking hands: they shook on the deal
More example sentences
  • The two shook on an agreement long ago where Durst pays Biddle a small base salary, plus extras for other tasks.
  • Abbas and Sharon shake on the latest peace agreement.
  • Blaise took his hand as they shook on the agreement.

shake out

Eventually prove to happen: we’ll see what shakes out
More example sentences
  • But all that law is still in flux, and who knows how it will eventually shake out?
  • When it does eventually come up it's to see how things have shaken out.
  • We read labels on processed food to see how the calories shook out.

shake something out

1Empty something out by shaking a container: he shook out a handful of painkillers
More example sentences
  • She shook a tablet out of the container onto her outstretched palm.
  • Snap on the lid, turn the container over and shake the seed out.
  • Tarantino is very clear about this: we see Bill open the bottle and drink the first shot in a single gulp, and we see him trying to shake the last drop out of the bottle when it is empty.
2Spread or open something such as a cloth or garment by shaking it: she shook out the newspaper
More example sentences
  • Mailroom personnel can open up any suspect mail under its protective hood and shake it out to ensure there are no dangerous substances inside.
  • I shake out the towel and satisfy them with peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, goldfish, and apple juice.
2.1Restore something crumpled to its natural shape by shaking: she undid her helmet and shook out her frizzled hair
More example sentences
  • I pulled up in the circle drive to the front of the house and pulled my helmet off, shaking my hair out.
  • Then she set aside the broom in a corner and stripped the sheets off her own bed, moved to a window she had opened while she cleaned, and shook the sheets out until her arms were sore and then some.
  • I'd shaken my hair out as well, leaving it to flow down my back.
2.2 Sailing Unwind or untie a reef to increase the area of a sail.
Example sentences
  • Indeed, given his own preferences, Holderman thought he might actually have reduced sail, or at least left the night's reefs in rather than shaking them out, if only to give himself a little more time to avoid any ice his lookouts spotted.

shake someone up

Rouse someone from lethargy, apathy, or complacency: he had to do something to shake the team up—we lacked spark
More example sentences
  • He told him the manager's criticism was for the good of the team, that his words were designed to shake him up, not put him down.
  • This really shook Mel up and caused him to ask himself if his life was going in the right direction.
  • I'm still happy and all, but something happened today that shook me up.

shake something up

1Mix ingredients by shaking: use soap flakes shaken up in the water to make bubbles
2Make radical changes to the organization or structure of an institution or system: he presented plans to shake up the legal profession
More example sentences
  • There is no shortage of proposals and initiatives to shake the system up.
  • Does that mean that he has plans to shake things up on the Max Bell stage?
  • I didn't expect it, though I probably should've, but Logan was formulating some plans for how to shake things up with my social life as well.


Old English sc(e)acan (verb), of Germanic origin.

  • Early examples of shake, an Old English word, include not only the senses ‘to tremble’ and ‘to make something vibrate’ but also the poetical sense ‘to depart or flee’. The Shakers are members of a US religious sect, properly called the United Society of Believers in Christ's Second Coming, which split off from the Quakers (properly called the Religious Society of Friends) in the mid 18th century. Participants in the group's services engaged in wild ecstatic movements, and people called them the Shaking Quakers. They were persecuted for their radicalism, and in 1774 left for America, where they lived frugally in celibate communities and made furniture noted for its simplicity and elegance. People sometimes think of the spy James Bond as being shaken not stirred, but the phrase refers to his drink, not to his temperament. In Dr No (1958) by Ian Fleming, Bond gave instructions on how he wanted his favourite tipple: ‘A medium vodka dry Martini—with a slice of lemon peel. Shaken and not stirred.’ Although Bond is usually described as being licensed to kill, the phrase does not occur in any of the original novels by Ian Fleming. ‘The licence to kill for the Secret Service, the double-0 prefix, was a great honour’, again from Dr No, was the closest approximation. In the 1962 film version it became ‘If you carry a 00 number it means you're licensed to kill, not get killed.’ No great shakes, meaning ‘not very good’, dates from the early 19th century. It probably comes from the shaking of dice, where an unlucky throw would be ‘no great shakes’

Words that rhyme with shake

ache, awake, bake, betake, Blake, brake, break, cake, crake, drake, fake, flake, forsake, hake, Jake, lake, make, mistake, opaque, partake, quake, rake, sake, sheikh, slake, snake, splake, stake, steak, strake, take, undertake, wake, wideawake

For editors and proofreaders

Syllabification: shake

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