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From grift + -er; or probably an alteration of grafter (“a corrupt person, one who accepts bribes”), which is essentially a doublet of the same word. Originally circus slang , gradually widened in sense.
grifter (plural grifters)
- (informal, originally Canada, US) A con artist; someone who pulls confidence games; a swindler, scammer, huckster, hustler, and/or charlatan.
- Synonyms: see Thesaurus:confidence trickster
- 1939, Raymond Chandler, The Big Sleep:
- We're all grifters. So we sell each other out for a nickel.
- 1958, Robert Bloch, That Hell-Bound Train:
- That was the train the drunks and the sinners rode—the gambling men and the grifters, the big-time spenders, the skirt-chasers, and all the jolly crew.
- 2020 November 12, Megan O’Grady, “How ‘The Talented Mr. Ripley’ Foretold Our Era of Grifting”, in The New York Times, ISSN 0362-4331:
- From the small-time grifters like Anna Sorokin, who adopted the last name Delvey to masquerade in downtown New York circles as a European heiress for four years before she was convicted of second-degree grand larceny in 2019, […] all impostors come equipped with a tall tale and a look to match.
- (colloquial, especially Internet) A manipulator or otherwise generally corrupt person who "games" a system, group of people, or other entity for selfish gains; especially of a political "sell-out" perceived as lacking integrity.