View synonyms for shill


[ shil ]


  1. a person who poses as a customer in order to decoy others into participating, as at a gambling house, auction, confidence game, etc.
  2. a person who publicizes or praises something or someone for reasons of self-interest, personal profit, or friendship or loyalty.

verb (used without object)

  1. to work as a shill:

    He shills for a large casino.

verb (used with object)

  1. to advertise or promote (a product) as or in the manner of a huckster; hustle:

    He was hired to shill a new TV show.


/ ʃɪl /


  1. slang.
    a confidence trickster's assistant, esp a person who poses as an ordinary customer, gambler, etc, in order to entice others to participate

Discover More

Word History and Origins

Origin of shill1

First recorded in 1920–25; origin uncertain

Discover More

Word History and Origins

Origin of shill1

C20: perhaps shortened from shillaber a circus barker, of unknown origin

Discover More

Example Sentences

When I sip my half-frozen beer on Pat’s porch as the sun sinks, I wonder if the ski bums of the future will all be trust-fund babies, corporate shills, and weed dealers.

Beyond that, there’s more minor threats such as “Oh, I’ll report you” or “Oh, soon you will be revealed and exposed as a shill.”

He became as polarizing a figure as the war itself, court jester to Nixon and corporate shill to boot.

Professional bloggers essentially get paid to shill the clothes they like and travel the world—to be influencers.

He is also quite happy to shill for garcinia cambogia, which he calls the “newest, fastest fat-buster.”

Yet his sincerity leads him to channel Kremlin propaganda as effectively as any paid shill.

Haaretz, no Netanyahu shill, recently publicized a poll reflecting the Israeli consensus belief in a two-state solution.

As Tom Scales led the horse away to the stables it turned its head towards its master with a short, shill neigh.

He's a cowardly scoundrel, but he shill hev far play, or my name ain't Jake Larkin!'

He's a-driftin' out'n de riber, ole Mist; shill I run and tell his folks when I puts der biscuits in de oben?

“Ye shill hab it, honey,” said the woman, giving him some from a bucket she had set on the ground.

And six makes twenty-eight pounds, four shill——What do you want in here?


Related Words

Discover More

More About Shill

What does shill mean?

A shill is a person who praises or promotes something because they secretly have a personal stake in it.

Where does shill come from?

A shill is a hustler or con-person who tries to convince other people to buy something or think something is great (shilling). The shill has ulterior motives for their actions, usually because they are the actual seller or have something to gain if the product sells well.

The word shill has a complicated history, oddly appropriate considering the underhanded meaning of the slang word. Many dictionaries maintain that shill comes from an older word, shillaber, a noun with the same meaning as shill and with an obscure origin. Both shill and shillaber are found in the early 20th-century in carnival (or “carny“) lingo, which isn’t well documented.

Shill was used as early as 1911, when it appeared in a short story in The Metropolitan to describe planted bidders who submitted fake bids to drive up the price of items in an auction.

Shillaber appears even earlier in a 1908 Los Angeles Herald story in which a man running a rigged carnival game used the word to refer to his assistants who pretended to be customers.

A 1915 article in The Day Book, also about rigged carnival games, directly connects shill with shillaber and says they can be used interchangeably.

How is shill used in real life?

Over 100 years later, shills are as widely disliked as they ever were. Thanks to the ease of posting things anonymously, it is especially easy to shill online.

Elsewhere, shill remains a popular term for hustlers, hucksters, con artists, and liars. As our examples show, shill is both a noun (e.g., a corporate shill) and verb (e.g., his article is just shilling for Big Oil).

More examples of shill:

“Thanks To All Those Shills On Twitter And Facebook, People Don’t Trust Their Friends Anymore”
—Michael Bush, AdAge (headline), February 2010


This content is not meant to be a formal definition of this term. Rather, it is an informal summary that seeks to provide supplemental information and context important to know or keep in mind about the term’s history, meaning, and usage.