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For other uses, see Shyster (disambiguation).

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


The etymology of the word is not generally agreed upon. The Merriam-Webster Dictionary says it is based on the German Scheißer (literally "shitter" but also used to refer to deceivers),[1] but the Oxford English Dictionary describes it as "of obscure origin", possibly deriving from a historical sense of "shy" meaning disreputable.[2] Various false etymologies have suggested an anti-Semitic origin, but there is no proof for that.[3] One source claims 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]

Film, radio, and television
Video games


  1. ^ "Shyster". Merriam-Webster. Retrieved 2008-08-30. 
  2. ^ Oxford English Dictionary, Second Edition, 1989, retrieved from
  3. ^ Quinion, Michael (19 May 2007). "Shyster". World Wide Words. Retrieved 2009-11-15. 
  4. ^ {{cite book
    • From the character Shylock - Merchant of Venice no?
    | last = Karrass | first = Chester L. | title = Give & Take | url = | year = 1974 | publisher = Thomas Y Crowell | location = New York | isbn = 0-690-00566-0 | page = 194 }}
  6. ^ Asimov, Isaac (1993). Robot visions. London: VGSF. ISBN 0-575-05527-8.