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For other uses, see Shyster (disambiguation).

Shyster /ˈʃstər/ is a slang word for someone who acts in a disreputable, unethical, or unscrupulous way, especially in the practice of law, sometimes also politics or business.


The etymology of the word is not generally agreed upon. The Oxford English Dictionary describes it as "of obscure origin", possibly deriving from a historical sense of "shy" meaning disreputable,[1] wheras the Merriam-Webster Dictionary deemed it probably based on the German Scheißer (literally "defecator"[2] but also used to refer to deceivers[dubious ]). Various false etymologies have suggested an anti-Semitic origin, possibly associated with the character of Shylock from Shakespeare's Merchant of Venice, but there is no clear evidence for this.[3] One source asserts that the term originated in Philadelphia in 1843 from a disreputable attorney named "Schuster."[4]

The Soviet nuclear missile R-5 Pobeda was given the NATO reporting name "Shyster."[5]

Cultural references[edit]


  1. ^ Oxford English Dictionary, Second Edition, 1989, retrieved from
  2. ^ "Shyster". Merriam-Webster. Retrieved 2008-08-30. 
  3. ^ Quinion, Michael (19 May 2007). "Shyster". World Wide Words. Retrieved 2009-11-15. 
  4. ^ Karrass, Chester L. (1974). Give & Take. New York: Thomas Y Crowell. p. 194. ISBN 0-690-00566-0.