\ 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

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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

In 2015, the US Food and Drug Administration chided a Canadian pharma company who paid the reality TV star to shill an anti-nausea pill to her 74 million Instagram and Twitter followers without citing the risks of the prescription drug. Anne Quito, Quartzy, "A new “university” for Instagram influencers aims to stop the spread of misinformation," 23 July 2019 The best so far? O’Neill’s not shilling for his neighbors, either. Amy Drew Thompson,, "Disney Springs’ Raglan Road: New chef, new era, new flavors," 21 June 2019 Tim Ferris, the author of The 4-Hour Workweek, shills for an Indian company called GetFriday, which (like such competitors as Brickwork India and Your Man in India) offers personal assistant services for about $10 per hour. Mickey Rapkin, Town & Country, "How Does a Virtual Personal Assistant Work, Anyway?," 28 Feb. 2019 Industry gurus talk about the insidious biological effects of emotional stress while shilling for stress-inducing lifestyles of strict diet, exercise, and meditation routines. Brennan Kilbane, GQ, "The Least Stressful Way to Get Rid of Stress," 16 May 2018 Cole printed a thousand of these cards, the first of their kind, and sold them for a shilling each. Caroline Hallemann, Town & Country, "Who Was Henry Cole, Prince Albert's Right-Hand Man in Launching the Great Exhibition?," 25 Feb. 2019 Other public figures use the platform as a place to rant, or to shill for the highest bidder; Hathaway, on the other hand, does not in fact post anything herself. Elizabeth Holmes, Town & Country, "Anne Hathaway Is Nobody's Punching Bag," 8 Jan. 2019 Instead of shilling for beer or airlines or offshore casinos, Lerner gave the real estate on the front of Villa’s shirt to a children’s hospice foundation. Jonathan Clegg, WSJ, "The American Billionaire Who Got Chewed Up by English Soccer," 30 Nov. 2018 The seriousness of the moment had been punctured by the arrival of what felt like a souvenir, the kind shilled by amusement parks after a ride on their tallest roller coaster. Elissa Strauss, Glamour, "The Great Frozen Embryo Debate," 11 Oct. 2018

Recent Examples on the Web: Noun

If an auctioneer uses house bidders to get a minimum price, these items are most likely the targets for shills. Dennis Wagner, azcentral, "How to protect yourself from house bidders in online auctions," 24 June 2019 Even the second-best theme-park shills in Orlando provided my kids with the joy of a lifetime, at least until the next outlandishly expensive trip. Kyle Smith, National Review, "Orlando Magic," 22 Aug. 2019 As Maupin tried to serve as a neutral mediator and allow the students to read statements of apologies, he was met with jeers from some students, who called him a shill for racists. Richard Ruelas And, azcentral, "Why has former Attorney General Tom Horne aligned himself with the Rev. Jarrett Maupin?," 21 June 2019 Experts say that means auction houses are free to use shills to jack up the bidding. Dennis Wagner, azcentral, "Fake bids drive up prices on popular site Auction Nation, Republic finds," 24 June 2019 His adversaries call him a shill for health insurers, a bloodless bean counter who would rather let some sick people die than see them get expensive life-saving medicines. Jonathan Saltzman,, "Boston drug-pricing watchdog group is ‘mouse that roared’," 19 June 2019 Some gurus are considered shills for giving positive reviews to stay in the good graces of beauty companies. Alex Abad-santos, Vox, "Laura Lee, Jeffree Star, and the racism scandal upending the YouTube beauty community, explained," 28 Aug. 2018 Even the Environmental Protection Agency, far from a corporate shill, has likewise concluded that glyphosate is safe. The Editorial Board, WSJ, "Round Up the Usual Lawyers," 15 Aug. 2018 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

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

Noun and Verb

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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More Definitions for shill



English Language Learners Definition of shill

US, informal + disapproving : to talk about or describe someone or something in a favorable way because you are being paid to do it

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Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with shill

Nglish: Translation of shill for Spanish Speakers

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