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There are two main theories, which need not be mutually exclusive but may complement each other.

  • From dialectal schummeln, originally probably “to move back and forth”, whence various attested senses: “waver, totter; rock, swing, push; chase off; abscond, steal away; take clandestinely; rummage; bustle about; do housework”, etc. In favour of this derivation speaks that the sense “to cheat” was sometimes associated with “trickery through swift movements”, especially in the context of gambling. The verb schummeln (in the above-mentioned senses) is found in dialects as far south as Tyrol, but Adelung considered it chiefly Low German and the earliest attestations are of late Middle Dutch scommelen (1410: “to do kitchenwork”, 1530: “to rock, move back and forth”); hence probably of northern origin through Middle Low German *schummelen, eventually perhaps onomatopoeic. Compare modern Dutch schommelen. Compare also German verschaukeln (to cheat), from schaukeln (to rock, swing).
  • Through a dialectally attested sense “to trade (of a Jewish merchant)”, from Yiddish שום (shum), an acronym for the cities of Speyer, Worms, Mainz, the so-called Schum cities, old centres of Jewish religion and trade. However, a verb derived from this acronym is not attested in Yiddish and the sense “to trade” may be derived from the sense “to cheat”, rather than vice versa.


  • IPA(key): /ˈʃʊməln/
  • (file)
  • Hyphenation: schum‧meln


schummeln (weak, third-person singular present schummelt, past tense schummelte, past participle geschummelt, auxiliary haben)

  1. (intransitive, somewhat informal) to cheat (especially in games, but also in business, school, etc.)
    Synonym: mogeln


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