v. shook (shk), shak·en (shākən), shak·ing, shakes
a. To cause to move from side to side or up and down with jerky movements: I shook the juice container.
b. To cause to tremble, vibrate, or rock: The earthquake shook the ground. The wind shook the barley.
c. To brandish or wave, especially in anger: shake one's fist.
a. To cause to lose stability or strength, as of conviction: a crisis that has shaken my deepest beliefs.
b. To disturb or agitate emotionally; upset or unnerve: She was shaken by the news of the disaster.
a. To remove or dislodge by jerky movements: shook the dust from the cushions.
b. To scatter or strew by jerky movements: shook the salt on the popcorn.
c. To get rid of or put an end to: could not shake the feeling that things would not work out; wanted to shake his habit of snacking.
d. To get away from (a pursuer): couldn't shake the man who was following us.
e. To bring to a specified condition by or as if by shaking: "It is not easy to shake one's heart free of the impression" (John Middleton Murry).
4. To clasp (hands) in greeting or leave-taking or as a sign of agreement.
5. Music To trill (a note).
6. Games To rattle and mix (dice) before casting.
1. To move from side to side or up and down in short, irregular, often jerky movements: The trees shook in the wind.
2. To move something vigorously up and down or from side to side, as in mixing.
3. To tremble, as from cold or in anger.
4. To be unsteady; totter or waver.
5. Music To trill.
6. To shake hands: Let's shake on it.
1. The act of shaking: gave the bottle a shake.
2. A trembling or quivering movement.
3. Informal An earthquake.
a. A fissure in rock.
b. A crack in timber caused by wind or frost.
5. Informal A moment or instant: I'll do it in a shake.
6. Music A trill.
a. See milkshake.
b. A beverage in which the ingredients are mixed by shaking.
8. A rough shingle used to cover rustic buildings, such as barns: cedar shakes.
9. shakes Informal Uncontrollable trembling, as in a person who is cold, frightened, feverish, or ill. Often used with the: was suffering from a bad case of the shakes.
10. Informal A bargain or deal: getting a fair shake.
1. Slang To extort money from.
2. Slang To make a thorough search of: shook down the prisoners' cells for hidden weapons.
3. To subject (a new ship or aircraft) to shakedown testing.
4. To become acclimated or accustomed, as to a new environment or a new job.
To free oneself of; get rid of: We shook off our fears.
1. To come to pass; transpire; happen: Let's see how things shake out before we finalize our plans.
2. To straighten or extend by jerky movements: She took off her hat and shook out her hair.
1. To upset by or as if by a physical jolt or shock: was badly shaken up by the accident.
2. To subject to a drastic rearrangement or reorganization: new management bent on shaking up the company.
give (someone) the shake Slang
To escape from or get rid of: We managed to give our pursuers the shake.
no great shakes Slang
Unexceptional; ordinary: "stepping in between the victim and the bully, even when the victim happens to be no great shakes" (Louis Auchincloss).
shake a leg Informal
1. To dance.
2. To move quickly; hurry up.
shake (someone's) tree Slang
To arouse to action or reaction; disturb: "[He] so shook Hollywood's tree that ... all manner of ... people called me unsolicited to itemize his mistakes or praise his courage" (Tina Brown).
shake a stick at Slang
To point out, designate, or name: "All of a sudden there came into being a vast conservative infrastructure: think-tanks ... and more foundations than you could shake a stick at" (National Review).
[Middle English schaken, from Old English sceacan.]
shaka·ble, shakea·ble adj.
Synonyms: shake, tremble, quake, quiver1, shiver1, shudder
These verbs mean to manifest involuntary back-and-forth or up-and-down movement. Shake is the most general: My hand shook as I signed the mortgage. Tremble implies quick, rather slight movement, as from excitement, weakness, or anger: The speaker trembled as he denounced his opponents. Quake refers to more violent movement, as that caused by shock or upheaval: I was so scared that my legs began to quake. Quiver suggests a slight, rapid, tremulous movement: "Her lip quivered like that of a child about to cry" (Booth Tarkington).
Shiver involves rapid trembling, as of a person experiencing chill: "as I in hoary winter night stood shivering in the snow" (Robert Southwell).
Shudder applies chiefly to convulsive shaking caused by fear, horror, or revulsion: "She starts like one that spies an adder / ... The fear whereof doth make him shake and shudder" (Shakespeare). See Also Synonyms at agitate.
The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fifth Edition copyright ©2022 by HarperCollins Publishers. All rights reserved.
Indo-European & Semitic Roots Appendices
Thousands of entries in the dictionary include etymologies that trace their origins back to reconstructed proto-languages. You can obtain more information about these forms in our online appendices:
The Indo-European appendix covers nearly half of the Indo-European roots that have left their mark on English words. A more complete treatment of Indo-European roots and the English words derived from them is available in our Dictionary of Indo-European Roots.