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[shahrk] /ʃɑrk/
any of a group of elongate elasmobranch, mostly marine fishes, certain species of which are large, voracious, and sometimes dangerous to humans.
jump the shark, Informal. to begin a decline in quality, popularity, relevance, etc., after reaching a peak:
Some TV shows have jumped the shark once a popular cast member left the show.
Origin of shark1
First recorded in 1560-70; origin uncertain
Related forms
sharklike, adjective


[shahrk] /ʃɑrk/
a person who preys greedily on others, as by cheating or usury.
Informal. a person who has unusual ability in a particular field.
verb (used with object)
Archaic. to obtain by trickery or fraud; steal.
verb (used without object)
Archaic. to live by shifts and stratagems.
1590-1600; < German dialect Schork, variant of Schurke rascal Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2017.
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Examples from the Web for shark
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • This shark, I was told, had kept company with me as long as I had been in sight from the schooner.

    Ned Myers James Fenimore Cooper
  • The shark had apparently been harpooned at sea, and washed into the Humber.

    Adventures and Recollections Bill o'th' Hoylus End
  • The gentleman purchased the shark for a museum in Fleetwood.

    Adventures and Recollections Bill o'th' Hoylus End
  • Hey was down in the hold, having left me to take care of the shark.

    Adventures and Recollections Bill o'th' Hoylus End
  • This makes me think that he must have been a shark, and not a whale, as the others assumed.

    The Last Voyage Lady (Annie Allnutt) Brassey
British Dictionary definitions for shark


any of various usually ferocious selachian fishes, typically marine with a long body, two dorsal fins, rows of sharp teeth, and between five and seven gill slits on each side of the head
Derived Forms
sharklike, adjective
Word Origin
C16: of uncertain origin


a person who preys on or victimizes others, esp by swindling or extortion
(archaic) to obtain (something) by cheating or deception
Word Origin
C18: probably from German Schurke rogue; perhaps also influenced by shark1
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for shark

1560s, of uncertain origin; apparently the word and the first specimen were brought to London by Capt. John Hawkins's second expedition (landed 1565; see Hakluyt).

There is no proper name for it that I knowe, but that sertayne men of Captayne Haukinses doth call it a 'sharke' [handbill advertising an exhibition of the specimen, 1569]
The meaning "dishonest person who preys on others," though attested only from 1599 (sharker "artful swindler" in this sense is from 1594), may be the original sense, later transferred to the large, voracious marine fish. If so, it is possibly from German Schorck, a variant of Schurke "scoundrel, villain," agent noun of Middle High German schürgen (German schüren) "to poke, stir."

But on another theory, the English word is from a Mayan word, xoc, which might have meant "shark." Northern Europeans seem not to have been familiar with sharks before voyages to the tropics began. A slightly earlier name for it in English was tiburon, via Spanish (where it is attested by 1520s), from the Carib name for the fish.

The English word was applied (or re-applied) to voracious or predatory persons, on the image of the fish, from 1707 (originally of pick-pockets); loan shark is attested from 1905. Sharkskin (1851) was used for binding books, etc. As the name of a type of fabric held to resemble it, it is recorded from 1932.
There is the ordinary Brown Shark, or sea attorney, so called by sailors; a grasping, rapacious varlet, that in spite of the hard knocks received from it, often snapped viciously at our steering oar. [Herman Melville, "Mardi"]


c.1600, "to live by one's wits," of uncertain origin (see shark (n.)); according to OED, at least partly a variant of shirk. Meaning "obtain by sharking" is from 1610s. Related: Sharked; sharking.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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Slang definitions & phrases for shark



  1. A confidence man or swindler; hustler, sharp (1599+)
  2. A very able student, esp one who does not seem to work hard (1895+ Students)
  3. An expert, esp a somewhat exploitive or unscrupulous one Usually preceded by a


showing the field of skill: the gun-shark's report (1920s+) 4 A lawyer (1806+)

Related Terms

cardsharp, loan shark

[all senses fr the predaceous fish, except that the oldest sense may originally have been fr German schurke, ''rascal'']

The Dictionary of American Slang, Fourth Edition by Barbara Ann Kipfer, PhD. and Robert L. Chapman, Ph.D.
Copyright (C) 2007 by HarperCollins Publishers.
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