\ 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 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, "Commentary: Charmin’s bears are just cruel now. How coronavirus has changed TV ads," 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, "Social distancing TV is finding its groove -- and discovering its limits," 17 Apr. 2020 Conspiracy theorist and far-right radio host Alex Jones has been ordered by the New York attorney general to stop shilling phony coronavirus cures. Joshua Bote, USA TODAY, "Conspiracy theorist Alex Jones ordered to stop peddling phony coronavirus cures by New York AG," 14 Mar. 2020 Not proud of that trump endorsement tho — L (@hayIorswift) February 3, 2020 The families separated at the border are ashamed of this tweet, Kimberly — Asal Helmsly (@AKHelmsly) February 3, 2020 But God — shilling for trump?! Tanya Edwards,, "Kim Kardashian West Didn’t Drag Trump’s Super Bowl Ad, But Everyone Else Did," 2 Feb. 2020 She's done everything from teeth whitening to shilling for Rian Johnson's Knives Out, by playing a murder mystery alongside other reality stars like Scheana Marie from Vanderpump Rules. Martha Sorren,, "A Lot Has Changed For Demi Burnett Since Bachelor In Paradise Ended," 13 Jan. 2020 Professional financial advice from an objective financial adviser — avoid those shilling products — can add hundreds of thousands of dollars to the retirement savings of the average American worker. Michael J. Francis, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "401k Adviser: Don’t let your lack of funds stop you from seeking help from a financial adviser," 27 Dec. 2019 Godzilla has been recruited to shill a range of products in commercials, from Snickers to Fiat cars. Clark Collis,, "Five ways to celebrate Godzilla's 65th birthday," 3 Nov. 2019 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 Recent Examples on the Web: Noun Fortunately for the Warriors, Thompson heals faster than the preacher’s shill at a tent revival. Scott Ostler, San Francisco Chronicle, "Bay Area's 2021 Comeback Kid: Thompson, Chapman, Bosa or Posey?," 21 Feb. 2021 Among opponents, there is a long-standing assumption that anyone who promotes nuclear power must be a shill. Rebecca Tuhus-dubrow, The New Yorker, "The Activists Who Embrace Nuclear Power," 19 Feb. 2021 One where, without evidence, some Trump supporters believe the Republican Governor, who formally recognized the certification of President-elect Joe Biden's win here, is actually a shill for the Chinese government. Donie O'sullivan Video By Lacey Russell, CNN, "Georgia becomes ground zero for election misinformation ahead of Senate runoff," 10 Dec. 2020 One of Hazel’s fellow shill players, a buddy of the club owner named Richard Dooley, watched Rowe like a hawk. Krista Stevens, Longreads, "Longreads Best of 2020: Sports and Games," 2 May 2012 Avast also alerted both TikTok and Instagram to the shill accounts doing the promotions. Dan Goodin, Ars Technica, "A tip from a kid helps detect iOS and Android scam apps’ 2.4 million downloads," 22 Sep. 2020 Again, he was cast by critics in the role of Trump shill. Washington Post, "Surgeon General Jerome Adams may be the nicest guy in the Trump administration. But is that what America needs right now?," 12 July 2020 In years past, advertising agencies have had Britney Spears shill for Pepsi, invented the Budweiser frogs, hired Ridley Scott to direct, and gotten Golden Girls star Betty White cast as football player in a Snickers commercial. Melissa Locker, Time, "It Is With Heavy Hearts That We Must Face This Announcement That the Dapper Mr. Peanut Has 'Died'," 22 Jan. 2020 Experts disagree on whether the use of shill bidders is common, or appropriate. Dennis Wagner, azcentral, "Fake bids drive up prices on popular site Auction Nation, Republic finds," 24 June 2019

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

Time Traveler

The first known use of shill was circa 1914

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Cite this Entry

“Shill.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 7 Mar. 2021.

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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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Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for shill

Nglish: Translation of shill for Spanish Speakers

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