The 17th century British slang word skelder, a noun and verb which referred to a professional beggar, especially one who falsely pretended to be a wounded former soldier to gain sympathy; more generally, it could be used for a swindler or cheat. An early recorded use is by Ben Jonson, from his play Poetaster, written in 1601: 'An honest decayed commander, cannot skelder, cheat, nor be seene in a bawdie house.' In an older military connection, the term skelder seems to have been used in early Medieval England to mean 'shield-maker' (Old Norse 'skjoldur'?), the supposed derivation of the streetname Skeldergate in the city of York.
The Dutch schelm, a word meaning a villain or rogue.
The Latin scelus, meaning a wicked deed or wickedness.
An abbreviation of skeleton.
Use in film and television
The term is used several times in the film Miller's Crossing, especially in regard to the character Bernie Bernbaum.