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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. First attested in 1906.



grifter (plural grifters)

  1. (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[1], →ISSN:
      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.
  2. (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.

Further reading[edit]




  1. indefinite plural of grift