Shill vs shell

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Shill and shell are words that are close in spelling and pronunciation and may be considered confusables. 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)