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[shil] /ʃɪl/ Slang.
a person who poses as a customer in order to decoy others into participating, as at a gambling house, auction, confidence game, etc.
a person who publicizes or praises something or someone for reasons of self-interest, personal profit, or friendship or loyalty.
verb (used without object)
to work as a shill:
He shills for a large casino.
verb (used with object)
to advertise or promote (a product) as or in the manner of a huckster; hustle:
He was hired to shill a new TV show.
Origin of shill
First recorded in 1920-25; origin uncertain Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018.
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Examples from the Web for shill
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • I got mixed up with the Philip on the shilling, and I kept yelling, shill!

    The Little Colonel: Maid of Honor Annie Fellows Johnston
  • The shill led the way to an eight-foot tower mounted on gimbals.

    Gambler's World John Keith Laumer
  • I shill have the whole town on my side, you may be certain of that!

    Three Comedies Bjrnstjerne M. Bjrnson
  • That is, he needed no more assistance that most magicians do—a shill in the audience.

    The Foreign Hand Tie Gordon Randall Garrett
  • In this particular case, the shill was his brother, Leonard Poe.

    The Foreign Hand Tie Gordon Randall Garrett
  • At this the hermit in front of the preacher, uttering a shill cry, spread his arms abroad, and quivered from head to foot.

British Dictionary definitions for shill


(slang) a confidence trickster's assistant, esp a person who poses as an ordinary customer, gambler, etc, in order to entice others to participate
Word Origin
C20: perhaps shortened from shillaber a circus barker, of unknown origin
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 shill

"one who acts as a decoy for a gambler, auctioneer, etc.," 1916, probably originally circus or carnival argot, probably a shortened form of shillaber (1913) with the same meaning, origin unknown. The verb is attested from 1914. Related: Shilled; shilling.

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



  1. (also shillaber) An associate of an auctioneer, gambler, hawker, etc, who pretends to be a member of the audience and stimulates it to desired action: The shill is innocuous-looking (1916+ Circus)
  2. A barker, hawker, advertising or public relations person, or anyone else whose job is to stimulate business; flack (1940s+)


: That summer he shilled for a sidewalk hawker (1914+)

[origin unknown; perhaps, since it is a shortening of shillaber, ultimately fr Shillibeer, the name of an early 1800s British owner of a large bus company, the reference being to persons hired as decoys to sit in buses and attract passengers]

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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