1 : to act as a decoy especially for a gambler or pitchman
2 : to act as a spokesperson or promoter
Did You Know?
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.
After his retirement from professional football, the quarterback shilled for a brand of charcoal briquettes in a popular series of commercials.
“Reporter Jessica Wohl looked at the actors, musicians, athletes and comedians who’ve shilled for multiple brands between 2010 and 2019, largely drawing on Ad Age’s archives and coverage. The stars had to have hawked various products in numerous ads and campaigns, as opposed to occasional big-league Super Bowl commercials.” — Nicole Lyn Pesce, Market Watch, 19 Dec. 2019