English [ edit ]
Alternative forms [ edit ]
Etymology [ edit ]
First attested in the late 18
th century. From  + sham Abraham man ( “ a beggar who pretends to be ill ” )
Pronunciation [ edit ]
( US ) IPA (: key) /ʃæm ˈeɪ.bɹəˌhæm/, /ʃæm ˈeɪ.bɹə.həm/
( sham Abraham third-person singular simple present , shams Abraham present participle , shamming Abraham simple past and past participle ) shammed Abraham
( idiomatic , obsolete , Britain , thieves' cant ) To pretend sickness or insanity.
1759, Goldsmith, Oliver, The Works of Oliver Goldsmith , volume 3, published 1835, The Citizen of the World, Letter CXIX, page 331: 
The boatswain found me, as he said, an obstinate fellow: he swore that I understood my business perfectly well, but that I shammed Abraham merely to be idle.
1849, Brontë, Charlotte, Shirley , volume 3, pages 219–220: 
Matthew, sceptic and scoffer, had already failed to subscribe a prompt belief in that pain about the heart: he had muttered some words, amongst which the phrase " shamming Abraham" had been very distinctly audible.
Usage notes [ edit ]
The term was used by workmen to mean taking time off work through this pretense. Used by sailors to mean being put on the sick list in order to shirk duty.
Synonyms [ edit ]
Hypernyms [ edit ]
Related terms [ edit ]
See also [ edit ]
References [ edit ]
^ Lesley Brown (editor), The Shorter Oxford English Dictionary, 5th edition (Oxford University Press, 2003 , ISBN 978-0198605751), page 7
Grose, Francis (1788) A Classical Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue , 2nd edition, London: S. Hooper 
Grose, Francis, The / Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue Lexicon Balatronicum: A Dictionary of Buckish Slang, University Wit, and Pickpocket Eloquence: altered and enlarged (London; 1811) Barrère, Albert; Leland, Charles Godfrey (1889)
A Dictionary of Slang, Jargon & Cant, volume 1, page 8 Farmer, John Stephen (1890)
Slang and Its Analogues , volume 1, page 10