• synonyms


See more synonyms for shark on Thesaurus.com
  1. a person who preys greedily on others, as by cheating or usury.
  2. Informal. a person who has unusual ability in a particular field.
Show More
verb (used with object)
  1. Archaic. to obtain by trickery or fraud; steal.
Show More
verb (used without object)
  1. Archaic. to live by shifts and stratagems.
Show More

Origin of shark2

1590–1600; < German dialect Schork, variant of Schurke rascal
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Related Words

supply, give, extend, grant, provide, contribute, afford, add, allow, impart, advance, oblige, stake, confer, bestow, let, furnish, permit, entrust, trust

Examples from the Web for sharking

Historical Examples

  • You shall play no more the sharking foist with me, you fumbling fiddler, you.

    A Select Collection of Old English Plays

    Robert Dodsley

  • At his first coming in, he is a piece of new coin, all sharking old prisoners lie sucking at his purse.

  • His hair hung in straight gallows locks about his ears, and added not a little to his sharking demeanor.

British Dictionary definitions for sharking


  1. 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
Show More
Derived Formssharklike, adjective

Word Origin

C16: of uncertain origin


  1. a person who preys on or victimizes others, esp by swindling or extortion
Show More
  1. archaic to obtain (something) by cheating or deception
Show More

Word Origin

C18: probably from German Schurke rogue; perhaps also influenced by shark 1
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

Word Origin and History for sharking



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"]
Show More



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.

Show More
Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper