To shanghai someone is to kidnap or trick them into working for you. The traditional way to shanghai someone is to drug him and put him on a ship. When the person wakes up, he better get to work.

This term popped up in the 19th century. The captain of a boat would shanghai people when his ship was short on labor. The shanghaied person would wake up and find himself at sea, often on a long trip like to Shanghai, China. The term is also used for similar, non-naval abductions. If you trick your best friend into coming home with you so she can do your chores, you shanghai her.

Definitions of shanghai

v take (someone) against his will for compulsory service, especially on board a ship

“The men were shanghaied after being drugged”
Type of:
abduct, kidnap, nobble, snatch
take away to an undisclosed location against their will and usually in order to extract a ransom

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