\ ˈshil How to pronounce shill (audio) \
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

The Conniving Roots of Shill

Someone who shills today may very well be employed to simply 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 was trying to con you into parting with some cash. Practitioners called shills 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 The internet has brought us so many things—and that includes the myriad new ways companies can shill their products to the consuming public. Carol Mangis, PCMAG, 29 Apr. 2022 Some crypto whales, industry executives, and everyday investors have obliged or have seized the opportunity to shill their own assets. Jacob Silverman, The New Republic, 3 Mar. 2022 That’s without the cost of hiring A-listers like Larry David, Lebron James and Matt Damon to shill the currency exchanges too. Sophie Mellor, Fortune, 14 Feb. 2022 Influencers on social media are human facades of cool who mostly shill for products. Owen Gleiberman, Variety, 2 Feb. 2022 Whitney bankrupting her family in order to shill hyaluronic acid, and Lisa stage-managing her adorable, endlessly patient sons. Jodi Walker,, 3 Jan. 2022 Dwayne Johnson has Teremana tequila, the Salvatore brothers from The Vampire Diaries have a shared whiskey brand, and Kyle MacLachlan joined TikTok in part to shill his Pursued by Bear label. Bethy Squires, Vulture, 8 July 2021 March 30, 2020 × Ads shilling credit programs, or programs to get creditors off your back, also appear more plentiful — which makes sense given the economic fears and realities unleashed by the coronavirus. Los Angeles Times, 23 Apr. 2020 That might be due, in part, to the fact there's less promotion involved, since shilling for upcoming movies or TV shows feels like a little awkward. Brian Lowry, CNN, 17 Apr. 2020 Recent Examples on the Web: Noun If James Madison could have taken his worries about political factions to Twitter, he surely would have been called both a cuck and a neoliberal shill. Clare Malone, The New Yorker, 11 Jan. 2022 Only shill reviewers, who automatically applaud liberal tenets, would find this story credible. Armond White, National Review, 17 Dec. 2021 The government claimed the crew used a variety of shill accounts to promote the main Tripwithscience brand. Thomas Brewster, Forbes, 1 Nov. 2021 Known for: getting fired from The Washington Post over plagiarism; was paid $36,000 to shill in columns for operatically corrupt government of Malaysia. Michael Tomasky, The New Republic, 27 Oct. 2021 The Joint List, outraged, worked to portray him as a shill for Netanyahu, and the strategy seemed to work. Ruth Margalit, The New Yorker, 25 Oct. 2021 The first results are likely to be ads for other sites that shill credit monitoring. Liz Weston, oregonlive, 24 July 2021 Meanwhile, Trump now has another six months to rile up his legions by painting Facebook as a leftist shill that silences conservatives. Jacob Silverman, The New Republic, 5 May 2021 Hazel worked for the Vapors as a shill player, gambling with house money to keep the tourists interested and the games going. Krista Stevens, Longreads, 2 May 2012 See More

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.

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

Noun and Verb

perhaps short for shillaber, of unknown origin

Learn More About shill

Time Traveler for shill

Time Traveler

The first known use of shill was circa 1914

See more words from the same year

Listen to Our Podcast About shill

Dictionary Entries Near shill




See More Nearby Entries 

Statistics for shill

Last Updated

10 May 2022

Cite this Entry

“Shill.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 18 May. 2022.

Style: MLA
MLACheck Mark Icon ChicagoCheck Mark Icon APACheck Mark Icon Merriam-WebsterCheck Mark Icon

More from Merriam-Webster on shill

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for shill

Nglish: Translation of shill for Spanish Speakers


Test Your Vocabulary

Eponyms: Words Named After People

How Strong Is Your Vocabulary?

Test your vocabulary with our 10-question quiz!

Universal Daily Crossword

A daily challenge for crossword fanatics.

Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!