Green’s Dictionary of Slang

shake v.

1. [17C–1960s] (also shake it, shake that thing) to have sexual intercourse (with); thus shake oneself, to masturbate; thus shaking n.

2. in Und. uses.

(a) [early 19C+] (Aus./UK Und.) to steal, to run off with; to rob; thus shaking n. [use after mid-19C mainly Aus.].

(b) [late 19C+] to blackmail, to extort money (from).

(c) [1950s+] (Can. Und.) to serve a prison sentence.

3. [mid-late 19C] (US Und.) to divide or hand over criminal spoils.

4. (orig. UK Und.) in senses of SE shake off.

(a) [mid–late 19C] of a person or activity, to abandon, to give up.

(b) [mid-19C–1910s] to leave.

(c) [mid-19C+] (also shake off) to get rid of, usu. of a person.

(d) [20C+] to evade a pursuer.

5. [late 19C] (US) to win when gambling.

6. in uses implying lit. or fig. movement.

(a) [1910s] (US, also shake oneself) as imper., get going, hurry up; to hurry up.

(b) [1970s] (US black) to explain (to).

(c) [1950s+] to happen, to start to happen.

(d) [1990s+] (W.I.) to move on.

7. see shake out

8. see shake down v. (2d)

In compounds

shake-bag (n.)

1. [18C] a prostitute.

2. [late 19C] the vagina.

3. see shag-bag n.

In phrases

what shakes?

[mid-19C] (UK Und.) what chance is there of stealing something?

SE in slang uses

In compounds

shake baby (n.) [baby n. (3) is encouraged to ‘shake that thing’]

[1920s–30s] (US black) a dress that is tight across the hips and has a short, full skirt.

shake-buckler (n.) [SE shake + buckler, a sword]

[mid-16C–mid-17C] a bully, a thug.

shake-em-up (n.) [its effects]

[1970s+] (US black) white port and lemon juice.

shakefoot (n.)

[1940s+] (W.I.) a party or dance, esp. one to which an invitation is not required.

shake-lurk (n.) [SE shake, to wave + lurk n. (1)]

[mid-19C] a piece of paper, carried by a beggar, which purports (falsely) to give an account of a terrible disaster, usu. a shipwreck, in which the beggar has suffered.

In phrases

nothing shaking (but the leaves on the trees)

[1950s+] (US) a phr. used to indicate that nothing is going on; often the response to the greeting what’s shaking? , and meaning things are normal.

shake (a) cloth in the wind (v.)

1. [late 18C–19C] to be hanged in chains [one’s flapping clothes].

2. [1930s] to be slightly drunk [orig. naut. jargon].

shake a hoof (v.)

1. [1910s] to run.

2. [1920s] to hurry, to ‘get a move on’.

3. [1920s] (US, also shake a limb) to dance.

shake a leg (v.)

1. [late 18C+] (also shake a foot, …haystack, …heel, …loose foot, …loose leg, …loose toe, …toe, turn a leg, shake one’s feet, …foot, …leg, …heels, ...socks, shake the foot) to dance; thus legshaking n.; leg-shake, n. a dance.

2. [20C+] (also shake leg) to hurry up, to get a move on (lit. and fig.); often as imper.

shake along (v.) (also shake oneself along)

[1910s] to move on.

shake a loose leg (v.) (also shake a free leg)

[mid-19C] (UK tramp) to live wandering as a tramp.

shake (a man’s) back (v.) [horseriding imagery]

[late 16C] of a woman, to copulate enthusiastically.

shake a sheet (v.)

[early 17C] to have sexual intercourse.

shake a sock (v.)

[20C+] to urinate.

shake a tail-feather (v.) [note Ward, A Compleat and Humorous Account of all the Remarkable Clubs and Societies (1709): ‘A Set of Dancers were wantonly engaged in their Shake-Tail Exercise’]

1. [1960s+] (orig. US) to dance energetically.

2. to act energetically.

shake a tart (v.) [tart n. (1)]

[late 19C+] of a man, to have sexual intercourse.

shake a wicked leg (v.) (also shake a mean hip, shake a nasty hoof, …shoulder, shake a wicked foot, …hoof, …limb, )

1. [1910s] (US) to dance well and energetically.

2. [1910s] (US) to run away at speed.

shake down

see separate entries.

shake hands (v.)

see separate entry.

shake it up (v.) (also shake it, shake her up, shake oneself up, shake up)

1. [mid-19C+] (Aus./US) to hurry up.

2. [1930s] (US) to walk in a provocative manner.

shake ’n’ bake (n.)

see separate entry.

shake-off (n.)

[1910s–30s] (US) the act of dismissing or abandoning someone.

shake one’s ass (v.)

see under ass n.

shake one’s heels (v.)

[late 16C] to be hanged.

shake one’s jolt (v.)

see under jolt n.

shake one’s shambles (v.)

[late 17C–18C] to hurry up, to get started.

shake one’s shirt (v.) (also get one’s shirt tail shaking)

[1930s+] (N.Z./US) to make an effort, to ‘get stuck in’.

shake one’s tail (v.)

see under tail n.

shake one’s teeva (v.) [var. batty n.2 (1)]

[2000s] (US black) to dance in an exuberant manner.

shake one’s tree (v.)

[1970s+] to pressurize someone emotionally.

shake out (v.) (also shake)

[1950s+] (W.I. Rasta) to leave without haste, casually.

shake the dew off the lily (v.)

see under lily n.

shake the fleas out of one’s pants (v.) (also shake off/out the fleas)

[mid-19C-1970s] (US) to make an effort, to ‘get a move on’, to stop being lazy.

shake the lead out (of) one’s arse/ass (v.)

see under lead n.

shake the pagoda tree (v.)

[19C-1900s] (of a colonial) to make a fortune in India.

shake the tree (v.)

[early 17C] to have sexual intercourse.

shake up

see separate entries.

what’s shaking?

1. [1950s+] (US, also how’s it shaking?) a greeting, hello and how are you?

2. [1960s] (US) what’s the matter?

In exclamations

shake five!

[1950s+] (W.I.) a greeting between two men, lit. ‘shake my five fingers’.