Shill vs shell

Shill and shell are words that are close in spelling and pronunciation and may be considered confusables. Confusables is a catch-all term for words that are often misused or confused; there are many confusing words in the English language that may be easily confused for each other in spoken English and written English. Two words or more than two words, even if they are common words, may be confused because they are similar in spelling, similar in pronunciation, or similar in meaning. These commonly confused words may be pronounced the same way or pronounced differently or may be spelled the same way or spelled differently, or may have different meanings or have almost different meanings; they may be homophones, homonyms, heteronyms, homographs, words that have a similar spelling, or words that have a similar meaning. Sometimes, confusables are word constructions that are not proper English words. Confusables often confound native speakers of English, and they may be difficult for ESL students and those learning English to understand. Confusables are misspelled, misused words that have a different meaning from one another and may be nouns, verbs, adjectives, adverbs, prepositions, or any other part of speech. Spelling rules in English are not dependable; there are many exceptions. Often, the best procedure to learn new words and commonly misused words and commonly confused words in English is to make word lists of English words for the learner to study to understand the difference in spelling and meaning. To learn new words in the English language, one must not only study a spelling words list, one must know the meaning of words in one’s vocabulary word list. It is also helpful to memorize how to correctly pronounce words and to know the etymology of new words or where they are derived from. A spell checker will rarely find this type of mistake in English vocabulary, so do not rely on spell check but instead, learn to spell and learn the definitions of words. Even a participant in a spelling bee like the National Spelling Bee will ask for an example of a confusable in a sentence, so that she understands which word she is to spell by using context clues. Confusables are often used in wordplay like puns. We will examine the different meanings of the confusables shill and shell, the word origins of the terms, and some examples of their English usage in sentences.

A shill is a person who aids a criminal by pretending to be a genuine customer, thereby inducing the victim to buy the item in question or patronize the establishment. Another type of shill is a person who endorses a product as an impartial customer, but is actually being paid to endorse the product. A shill may also help an entertainer such as a magician by posing as an audience member during a trick. Primarily an American term, shill may be used as a noun or a verb, related words are shills, shilled, shilling. The word shill is an abbreviation of the word shillaber, which was a term for an employee of a carnival or circus who bought tickets in an enthusiastic manner, inducing patrons to also buy tickets.

A shell a hard outer covering for a mollusk or crustacean, the thing, hard covering of an egg, the hard outer covering of a nut or seed, the hard wing on a beetle, or the outside casing of ordnance. Shell may also refer to the framework of something that is unfinished, like a building, and it may also be used figuratively to mean a protective layer. The word shell is used as a verb to mean to bombard with ordnance or to remove the hard outer covering of a nut, seed, or vegetable like a pea. Related words are shells, shelled, shelling. The word shell is derived from the Old English word, scell.


In unison they amplified the message that what was going on was a popular rebellion, and anyone who said otherwise was a shill for the systems that oppress the majority of Americans. (Wall Street Journal)

TV star and heiress Paris Hilton shilled a now defunct digital token on Twitter and the share price of New York-based company Long Island Iced Tea surged by almost 300% after it rebranded itself Long Blockchain. (Forbes)

“Until the current discovery, we had only encountered mollusk-shell waste and potsherds with patches of dye, which provided evidence of the purple industry in the Iron Age,” he said. (New York Post)

He was no turtle hiding in his shell when preparing for greatness and sharing his love for the student life. (Coast News)

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