Build your vocabulary with Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day! Each day a Merriam-Webster editor offers insight into a fascinating new word -- explaining its meaning, current use, and little-known details about its origin.
August 16th, 2015
Episode 289 of 903 episodes
Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for August 16, 2015 is: shill \SHIL\ verb 1 : to act as a decoy (as for a pitchman or gambler) 2 : to act as a spokesperson or promoter Examples: A long line of A-list actresses have shilled for the company's perfumes over the decades. "In recent years, people who hawked ice cream or hot dogs, taught yoga or shilled other goods and services in Los Angeles parks were [legally] in the clear." Emily Alpert Reyes, Los Angeles Times, June 16, 2015 Did you know? Although some who shill are legitimately employed to extol the wonders of legitimate products, this was not always the case. In the first documented uses of the word shill, in the early 1900s, it was more likely that anyone hired to shill 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 (an obscure noun synonymous with shill), but etymologists have found no definitive evidence of where that longer term originated.