Green’s Dictionary of Slang

shake down v.

1. in senses of shakedown n. (1)

(a) to sleep in an impromptu bed.

[UK]W.H. Russell Diary in India I 40: Five or six of us shook down for the night and resigned ourselves to the musquitoes and to slumber [F&H].
[UK]W. Collins Armadale II 43/1: We’ll all shake down together on the floor.
[SA]B. Mitford Fire Trumpet I 49: He had ‘shaken down’ in Hick’s room, and the two had talked and smoked themselves to sleep.
[US]C.L. Cullen Tales of the Ex-Tanks 244: Yo’ kin shake down in dat cohnuh.
[Aus]Bulletin (Sydney) 24 Dec. 16/4: Put your nags in paddock, tucker with us in kitchen, and shakedown inside to-night if it rains.
[Ire]B. Behan Quare Fellow (1960) Act I: We’re too old and beat for lobbywatching and shaking down anywhere.

(b) to settle into living quarters.

[NZ]N.Z. Observer (Auckland) 5 Feb. 205/1: Considering how incongruous many of the elements are, the guests shake down together wonderfully.
[UK]Fenn New Mistress i n.p.: [...] I hope you’ll come and see me often as soon as you get shaken down [F&H].

2. (also shake loose, shake out) in senses of shakedown n. (4)

(a) to blackmail, to extort money (from); thus shaker-down n., a blackmailer.

[US]F. St. Clair Six Days in the Metropolis 75: Molly Brown [...] had just been pardoned out of the House of Correction , where she had been sent for shaking down the venerable John Smith.
[US]G.P. Burnham Memoirs of the US Secret Service viii: Shake, Out, to ‘shake down’; to extort money from individuals.
[US]G. Devol Forty Years a Gambler 211: We had [...] finally shaken down a man for $1,200.
[US]Ade Artie (1963) 65: Everybody’s shakin’ him down this spring, and if he gets the gaff he’ll be flat on his back.
[US]E. Townsend Chimmie Fadden and Mr Paul 74: De ‘stuff’ is de boodle dat de gang what runs de city shakes down from de crooks; and ‘dey’ is de shaker-downs.
[US]H. Green Actors’ Boarding House (1906) 59: He puts up a beef about the elbows shakin’ him down ag’in.
[US]R. Lardner ‘The Water Cure’ in Gullible’s Travels 162: The time he shook me down was the evenin’ he took us to hear Ada, and was supposed to be payin’ for it.
[US]D.G. Rowse Doughboy Dope 61: A corporalcy [...] also helps you shake loose an extra three bucks from the Disbursing Officer.
[US]G.S. Schuyler Yellow Peril in Hatch & Hamalian Lost Plays of Harlem Renaissance (1996) 57: I sure had to shakedown the bootleggers to get enough to buy that!
[US]B. Appel Brain Guy (1937) 2: Who could he shakedown without too much of a squawk?
[US]H. McCoy Kiss Tomorrow Goodbye in Four Novels (1983) 119: Any cop who’ll shake you down is a cop who’ll kill you after he gets the money.
[US]C. Himes Crazy Kill 98: He was trying to shake Johnny down for ten grand.
[US](con. 1920s) J. Thompson South of Heaven (1994) 12: You tried to shake me and Four Trey Whitey down.
[US]V.E. Smith Jones Men 58: These cats used to have a bad habit of shaking down other kids for lunch money.
[US]H. Gould Fort Apache, The Bronx 62: My brother’s a bookie, my father’s a bootlegger [...] I could make a fortune shakin’ down my own family.
[US]S. Morgan Homeboy 8: I wasn’t tryin to shake him down or nothin.
[US]C. Hiaasen Skinny Dip 129: Could be some smart-ass [...] got the bright idea to shake you down.
[US](con. 1973) C. Stella Johnny Porno 17: Hastings was shaking down card games and bars.

(b) to interrogate; to elicit information.

[US]Sun (NY) 13 May 14/6: I settled that mug for another trick once, and I think I can shake him down now and find out who stood foer the stuff and where it was planted.
[US]D. Hammett ‘The First Thin Man’ in Nightmare Town (2001) 377: We’ll see what we can shake the girl down for. She ought to know where Kearney hangs out.
[US]J. Dixon Free To Love 166: We ought to be able to dig up that sling-shot expert who’s hibernating in Jersey and shake him down for a confession.
[US]Lait & Mortimer USA Confidential 19: Gumshoes are having a field day chasing mashers and shaking them down.
[US](con. WWII) T. Sanchez Hollywoodland (1981) 9: The cops shook La Rue down after those FBI shootings. They couldn’t pin a thing on her.
[US]E. Leonard Glitz 229: Whoever was with her the night she was killed, that’s the guy you want to shake down, for Christ sake.
[US]B. Hamper Rivethead (1992) 22: Each time he shook me down for information, I turned dumber than a tree stump.
[US](con. 1986) G. Pelecanos Sweet Forever 209: Cops been shakin’ most of them down this morning, askin’ questions about Chief and his friend.
[UK]K. Sampson Outlaws (ms.) 85: People have got wind, they’re trying to shake down a bit of info but they’re firing blind.

(c) to obtain a financial contribution from, e.g. to a political campaign.

[US]Ade Pink Marsh (1963) 168: Mis’ Adams come down heah ’bout twice a week an’ shake Misteh Adams down f’ ev’y cent he’s got.
[US]Ade More Fables in Sl. (1960) 132: An Eminent Politician would come to his office to shake him down.

(d) (also shake, of (usu.) police, to search, to raid; also (prison) to search a cell.

[US]A.H. Lewis Confessions of a Detective 74: The copper runs in the rich thief, and then he and the lawyer shake him down between them for the bundle. When they’ve taken all his roll, they turn him loose to get some more.
[US]G. Bronson-Howard God’s Man 39: There’s quite a trade in laudanum since the police started shaking down the hop joints so much.
[US]G. Milburn ‘The Hobo’s Last Lament’ in Hobo’s Hornbook 74: Where St. Peter runs the flop-house / And angels walk the drag, / And no cheap dick can shake you down / And take away your swag.
[US]J. Fishman Sex in Prison 155: It was after I was actually ‘shaken down,’ as the prisoners put it, [...] that my difficulties began.
[US]N. Algren Man with the Golden Arm 314: They [...] shook down every peddler they spotted.
[US]‘William Lee’ Junkie (1966) 89: He got rid of the junk before the cops shook his place down.
[US]J. Gelber Connection 80: The cops shake everyone.
[US]M. Spillane Return of the Hood 67: I wished I had had time to shake down the place completely.
[US]M. Braly On the Yard (2002) 28: I got jacked up and shook down so many times it seemed like my pockets were always inside out.
[Can]R. Caron Go-Boy! 46: The Dick would busy himself shaking down the drums for hidden contraband.
[US]Jackson & Christian Death Row xvii: Shakedown means search.
[US]S. Morgan Homeboy 205: The undercover cop [...] cuffed him without shaking him down.
[US]S.L. Hills Tragic Magic 155: They used to shake down my cell all the time.
[US]J. Lerner You Got Nothing Coming 64: If the cops shook down our cell, we would both be charged with the shank.
[US]A. Steinberg Running the Books 165: [He] had reason to believe his cell would be shaken down.
[US]Mother Jones July/Aug. [Internet] Dude! I’ma shake him the fuck down! [...] I don’t care if he's cool.

(e) to check one’s pockets (for cash).

[US]D. Runyon ‘The Informal Execution of Soupbone Pew’ in From First to Last (1954) 71: ‘How much dough iss dere in dis mob?’ demanded Muller, frisking himself. We all shook ourselves down, but the most we could scare up was three or four dollars.

(f) to pay protection to the police against one’s will.

[US]J. Sullivan ‘Criminal Sl.’ in Amer. Law Rev. LII (1918) 892: ‘Shake down’ is paying for police protection against your will.

(g) to rob.

[US](con. 1918) E.W. Springs Rise and Fall of Carol Banks 164: I overheard a couple of girls at the club planning to shake him down.
[US](con. 1880s) E. Cunningham Triggernometry (1957) 241: Sam, you and Davis go shake down the passengers.
[US](con. 1938) C. Chessman Cell 2455 107: How about the old gink here [...] do we shake him down too?
[UK]B. Hill Boss of Britain’s Underworld 63: A shifty, mealy-mouthed individual, always wondering how much he could shake you down for.
[UK]C. Knight We Shall Not Die 79: The idea to shake down Robinson had come to Petro the very day Robinson left hospital.
[US]W.T. Vollmann Royal Family 510: Now shake Heavyset down.

(h) to empty out.

[US]T. Runyon In For Life 32: Ira was [...] shaking down the cashier’s section and every drawer in sight.

(i) (US black) to have sex with.

[US]MC Lyte ‘I Cram to Understand U’ [lyrics] I know you wanna shake me down / But I’m not one of the girls that go rippin around.
[US]Bentley & Corbett Prison Sl. 50: Shake Someone Down also Shake You Down To have sex with someone. This can be homosexual or heterosexual.

3. to beat at cards.

[US]J. Ridley Love Is a Racket 102: Forty-five minutes was all it took for a dirty little addict to shake me down.

In phrases

shake it down (v.)

to make an effort, to get to work.

[US]W.T. Vollmann Royal Family 594: Shake it down; break some bread, you little cocksucker fuckin’ bitchmama shitass.