Shake vs. Sheikh

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Shake and sheikh are two commonly confused words that are pronounced in the same way but are spelled differently and have different meanings, which makes them homophones. We will examine the different meanings of the homophonic words shake and sheikh, the word origins of the terms, and some examples of their English usage in sentences.

Shake may be used as a verb to mean to tremble or perform quick, jerky movements because of strong emotion, a physical problem, or being cold. Shake may also mean grasping someone or something and rapidly applying quick, jerky movements either in anger, to bring someone to his senses, or to get his attention. Shake is also used figuratively, as in to shake things up, which means to make radical changes in an organization, system, or protocol. Shake may mean to shake hands to seal an agreement. Related words are shakes, shaken, shook, shaking. Shake is also used as a noun to mean the act of shaking something or someone, the act of shaking hands, or it may be an abbreviation of the word milk shake. The word shake is derived from the Old English word sceacan, which means to rapidly move something back and forth.

A sheikh is an Arab or Muslim leader, the head of a tribe or village, or a venerated religious leader. The word sheikh is derived from the Arabic word, shaykh, which literally means old man. A variant spelling is sheik.


USGS characterizes strengths below 2.5 as akin to the shake of a big truck going past. (The Charleston Post Courier)

Put simply: Our everyday lives are changing before our eyes, and we all have been shaken to the core. (The Worcester Telegram)

“People in China found another way to greet since they can’t shake hands,” wrote one user alongside a video of the “Wuhan Shake.” (The New York Post)

Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, the UAE Vice President and Ruler of Dubai, has promoted Dubai Police chief Abdullah Al Marri. (The National)

“The hard time will pass anyway; we might just as well put that passing time to get stronger than before,” Sheikh Mohamed told a number of Sheikhs, ministers and officials at Qasr Al Bahr Majlis. (The Khaleej Times)