Green’s Dictionary of Slang

shakes, the n.

1. (also shivery shakes) delirium tremens, the shaking associated with an alcoholic who has been deprived of sufficient drink to achieve normality.

[US]R.F. Burton City of the Saints 59: Being obliged to leave behind one of the conductors, who had become delirious with the ‘shakes’.
[UK]Belfast Morn. News 24 Feb. 4/1: Poor Joe has got the shakes, and Rube the horrors upon him.
[Aus]Mercury (Hobart) 23 Apr. 2/5: [from the Stranraer Free Press] [...] in the shakes, in the blues.
[UK]Cornhill Mag. June 616: Until she is pulled up by an attack of delirium tremens, or, as she and her neighbours style it, a fit of the shakes [F&H].
[US]F. Dumont Dumont’s Joke Book 75: mid.: You should not drink at all. end.: I had to. I was awful sick. I had the shakes.
[Aus]Bulletin (Sydney) 3 Mar. 25/2: ‘Charles Warner is again ‘Drink’-ing strong and successfully,’ writes the Bulletin’s London correspondent. ‘His bout at the Adelphi only increased the public’s thirst, and C.W. had to transfer his ’shakes’ and d.t.’s to the Princess.’.
[UK]Western Times (Devon) 2 Oct. 2/7: In defence [he] said he had ‘the shakes all over,’ and probably because he staggered a litle policeman thought he was drunk.
[US](con. 1900s) S. Lewis Elmer Gantry 228: He would be up there, kneeling with a sewing-machine agent with the day-after shakes.
[US]W.R. Burnett High Sierra in Four Novels (1984) 314: One of the guys, a bird nobody liked, had the shakes.
[US]Berrey & Van den Bark Amer. Thes. Sl. §130.9: delerium tremens, the [...] shivery shakes.
[UK]G. Kersh Fowlers End (2001) 154: Poor Miss Noel had the shakes. She had been drinking methylated spirits.
[US]Larner & Tefferteller Addict in the Street (1966) 145: The alcoholic can tell the doctor he’s got the shakes and they’ll give him a drink of paraldehyde.
[Aus]D. Ireland Glass Canoe (1982) 192: Wal reckoned I had the shakes from being on the piss the night before.
[UK](con. 1950s–60s) in G. Tremlett Little Legs 184: In the mornings I often wake up with the shakes.
Menzingers ‘The Shakes’ [lyrics] I’ve got the shakes, bay. The shakes. [...] Buy some booze for breakfast.

2. fever, e.g. malaria.

[UK]Devizes & Wilts. Gaz. 28 Apr. 4/1: Boston is a terrible place for fevers and agues [...] or [the] ‘shake.’ as they call it.
Armargh Guardian 30 Sept. 5/4: He said he felt cold, and then got the shakes [...] ‘I’m sorry to tell you,’ says the doctor, ‘that this is [...] a case of typhus fever’.
[US](con. 1861-5) B.I. Wiley Life of Billy Yank 134: One out of every four cases of illness [...] was malarial [...] The disease was so common, indeed, that a standard greeting in some camps was ‘Have you had the shakes?’.

3. (also shakeroos) extreme terror, nervousness.

[US]E. O’Neill Long Voyage Home (1923) 5: You’d fair give a bloke the shakes a-watchin’ yer.
[UK](con. 1917–18) J.M. Saunders Wings (1928) 72: He’s got the shakes! Hand’s trembling like a leaf.
[US]R. Chandler High Window 124: Would you mind telling me why you had Eddie call me up and give me the shakes?
[US]W.R. Burnett Little Men, Big World 166: He’s got the shakeroos. He’s a lost cause.
[US]S. Bellow Augie March (1996) 115: It was a while before I could straight think about it [i.e. a robbery], having the shakes.
[UK]R. Cook Crust on its Uppers 98: I’ve got the shakes a bit.
[UK]A. Sillitoe Start in Life (1979) 266: Got the shakes already, Mr Cullen?
[US]‘Joe Bob Briggs’ Joe Bob Goes to the Drive-In 80: Even after I got him cleaned up, Rhett still had the shakes.
[Can]O.D. Brooks Legs 16: I have to get rid of the shakes.
[Aus]L. Redhead Rubdown [ebook] When they’d left I lay down on the bench seat and gave in to the shakes.
[US]J. Ridley What Fire Cannot Burn 132: There were times [...] when Soledad found herself with the shakes. The night after going up against the telepath she’d [...] vomited.

4. as sense 1 in the context of withdrawal from narcotics.

[US]L. Berg Prison Nurse (1964) 108: Last week he had the shakes so bad I thought he had a fever! How in hell he expected to shoot stuff into veins when his fingers were twitching all over.
[US]‘William Lee’ Junkie (1966) 135: I had the shakes bad and on top of that I was junk-sick.
[US]H. Ellison ‘Gentleman Junkie’ in Gentleman Junkie 21: Oh, God, the withdrawal symptoms. The shakes took him, then.
[US]J. Ellroy Brown’s Requiem 69: I’m gonna geez. I can’t talk to you till I get over these shakes.
[US]S. Morgan Homeboy 42: Rooski was trying to blame his shakes on his multiple overdoses of electro-shock.
[UK]Observer 9 Jan. 6: Cold sweats then hot sweats, getting the shakes.
[US]J. Stahl Bad Sex on Speed 23: In the De-Speed Wing [...] They gave you something for the shakes.

5. a similar effect to sense 1, caused by excess coffee.

[US](con. 1949) G. Pelecanos Big Blowdown (1999) 250: I got the caffeine shakes, is all it is.

6. palsy.

[US]N. Algren Neon Wilderness (1986) 208: He had only been a weak sort of kid [...] with a brace on one leg or cockeyes or the shakes.

7. great excitement.

[Aus]D. Stivens Jimmy Brockett 104: She went limp and started panting. I had the shakes a bit myself.
[Aus]‘Nino Culotta’ Cop This Lot 95: Got the shakes, ’ave yer? Wait till y’ve been married as long as I ’ave.
[UK]Guardian Guide 8–14 Jan. 26: I was suffering with the shakes after seeing Pete Tong at Bananas.

8. an addiction to (dice) gambling.

[US]G. Hayward Corruption Officer [ebk] cap. 2: He always warned me about having the shakes — an addcitive gambling problem.