verb (used without object)
verb (used with object)
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Origin of shill
Words nearby 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.
The new gun safety majority in the House will act on behalf of the American people, not the gun corporations the NRA shills for. https://t.co/yjfrPO6A1q
— Rep. Ted Deutch (@RepTedDeutch) December 17, 2018
Queen, please. Go back to shill for Fox News
— Tim Griffin (@tkgriffi) January 21, 2019
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).
"Social media influencer" is the new yuppie corporate shill
— Michael Keating (@MikeNearLeigh) January 23, 2019
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.
Example sentences from the Web for shill
Professional bloggers essentially get paid to shill the clothes they like and travel the world—to be influencers.Tavi Gevinson: From Teen Fashion Queen to Broadway Star|Arabelle Sicardi|July 12, 2014|DAILY BEAST
He is also quite happy to shill for garcinia cambogia, which he calls the “newest, fastest fat-buster.”
Haaretz, no Netanyahu shill, recently publicized a poll reflecting the Israeli consensus belief in a two-state solution.
Contrary to the claims of the Daily Kos crowd, Third Way is not a shill for corporations.
And six makes twenty-eight pounds, four shill——What do you want in here?Old Scrooge: A Christmas Carol in Five Staves.|Charles A. Scott
He's a cowardly scoundrel, but he shill hev far play, or my name ain't Jake Larkin!'
In this particular case, the shill was his brother, Leonard Poe.The Foreign Hand Tie|Gordon Randall Garrett
I don't keer ter handle you, but I shill ef you don't leab widin five minutes.'
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?The Actress' Daughter|May Agnes Fleming