\ 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

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 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

Recent Examples on the Web: Noun

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 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

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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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

Comments on shill

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showing courage and determination

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