\ˈshil \
shilled; shilling; shills

Definition of shill 

(Entry 1 of 2)

intransitive verb

1 : to act as a shill

2 : to act as a spokesperson or promoter the eminent Shakespearean producer … is now shilling for a brokerage house— Andy Rooney



Definition of shill (Entry 2 of 2)

1a : one who acts as a decoy (as for a pitchman or gambler)

b : one who makes a sales pitch or serves as a promoter

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The Conniving Roots of Shill


Professionals licensed to shill won't necessarily knock you dead, but they may not do you any good either. They might simply be pitchmen employed to extol the wonders of legitimate products. But in the early 1900s, when the first uses of the verb shill were documented, it was more likely that anyone hired to shill you was trying to con you into parting with some cash. Practitioners were called shills (that noun also dates from the early 1900s), and they did everything from faking big wins at casinos (to promote gambling) to pretending to buy tickets (to encourage people to see certain shows). Shill is thought to be a shortened form of shillaber, but etymologists have found no definitive evidence of where that longer term originated.

Examples of shill in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web: Verb

Yep, that is Rodman shilling for a cryptocurrency site that hopes to become the preferred payment method for weed transactions. Stephen A. Crockett Jr., The Root, "10 Reasons Dennis Rodman’s Summit Interview Was the Most Bizarre Must-Watch Television Moment in 2018," 12 June 2018 Today, Kanye West took a break from shilling for the alt-light to produce a bunch of tweets about his other great love: his Yeezy apparel business. Cam Wolf, GQ, "Fact-Checking Kanye West's Wildest Yeezy Claims," 25 Apr. 2018 The work’s title was a metaphor for how the cosmetics industry shills unnecessary products. Ashley Weatherford, The Cut, "Skin Care’s Most Outspoken Founder on Why Sheet Masks Are a Lie," 11 May 2018 Look for Lil Donnie to start posting Insta-stories and shilling athletic wear on his YouTube channel. Stephen A. Crockett Jr., The Root, "Cash Me Outside: Vanessa Trump ‘Went Gangster’ on Aubrey O’Day After Learning of Her Alleged Affair With Donald Jr.: Report," 30 Apr. 2018 Willis, who at this point was indistinguishable from his Moonlighting role of David Addison, tries on some smirky repartee with a lukewarm Stone, in the service of shilling a wine cooler. Dave Holmes, Esquire, "David Harbour Became the New Bruce Willis This Week," 8 Feb. 2018 Longtime fans of the Grammy winner might wonder how much KFC paid her for shilling their new product. Grace Schneider, The Courier-Journal, "First female Kentucky Fried Chicken Colonel is ... country music phenom Reba McEntire," 25 Jan. 2018 Ford Times was a house-organ publication that shilled the virtues of owning, not surprisingly, a Ford automobile. Peter Tertzakian, USA TODAY, "Analysis: Are combustion engines reaching peak demand?," 23 Oct. 2017 Even though big-name Democrats are hastening to dump Weinstein’s donations as if the cash were on fire, some progressives are still shilling for the powerful exec. Alexandra Desanctis, National Review, "The Left Stays Largely Silent on Weinstein Scandal," 8 Oct. 2017

Recent Examples on the Web: Noun

But unlike plenty of other stars from the show, Renner hasn't been approached to shill products like Hello Fresh meal kits or Bombay Hair curling wands on Instagram — yet. Mallorie Sullivan,, "'It was an out-of-body experience': Cincinnati suitor details time on 'The Bachelorette'," 25 June 2018 Fox News’ Hannity calamity Sean Hannity loves to rip the mainstream media in his role as a shrill shill for President Trump. John Diaz, San Francisco Chronicle, "Last Word: Fox News’ Hannity calamity," 17 Apr. 2018 These California Democrats will go down in history as among the worst corporate shills that have ever held elected office. Trisha Thadani,, "California net neutrality bill ‘eviscerated’ in Assembly committee meeting," 20 June 2018 Witness to Charlottesville terror sues Jones for smearing him as 'deep state' shillBrennan Gilmore was filming in Charlottesville last August when a driver plowed through anti-racist protesters at a rally. Josh Hafner, USA TODAY, "Sandy Hook families suing Alex Jones aren't the only ones to threaten conspiracy theorist," 24 May 2018 By no means was Law — no one’s idea of a Pads shill or ever a fanboy draftnik/farm booster — alone in touting the Pads’ youth movement. Tom Krasovic,, "Revisiting a Padres' draft-and-farm hype train," 11 June 2018 Besides nervous Jared, Woods has played Gabe, a nervous corporate shill on The Office, and Chad, a nervous State Department underling in In the Loop. Lauren Larson, GQ, "Zach Woods in the Woods," 31 May 2018 For anyone who isn't a shill for an inept and corrupt administration, leaking is pretty patriotic. Luke Darby, GQ, "Sarah Huckabee Sanders Is Furious the White House's Inside Joke About John McCain Dying Was Leaked," 12 May 2018 At least the gun-control lobby and their anti-Second Amendment shills are keeping the campaign to ban guns classy. Nicole Gaudiano, USA TODAY, "House candidate drops F-bomb in new ad targeting NRA," 11 May 2018

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'shill.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

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First Known Use of shill


circa 1914, in the meaning defined at sense 1


circa 1916, in the meaning defined at sense 1a

History and Etymology for shill


shill entry 2


perhaps short for shillaber, of unknown origin

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Time Traveler for shill

The first known use of shill was circa 1914

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English Language Learners Definition of shill

: to talk about or describe someone or something in a favorable way because you are being paid to do it

Comments on shill

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a private place of worship

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