The etymology of the word is not generally agreed upon. The Oxford English Dictionary describes it as "of obscure origin," possibly deriving from a historical sense of "shy" meaning disreputable. Other sources suggest the word derives from the German Scheißer (“incompetent worthless person”), from scheißen (“to defecate”), probably influenced by -ster.
shyster (plural shysters)
- Someone who acts in a disreputable, unethical, or unscrupulous way, especially in the practice of law and politics.
- Synonym: pettifogger
- 1922, Sinclair Lewis, chapter 4, in Babbitt:
- True, it was a good advertisement at Boosters' Club lunches, and all the varieties of Annual Banquets to which Good Fellows were invited, to speak sonorously of Unselfish Public Service, the Broker's Obligation to Keep Inviolate the Trust of His Clients, and a thing called Ethics, whose nature was confusing but if you had it you were a High-class Realtor and if you hadn't you were a shyster, a piker, and a fly-by-night.
- 1981, Robert Preston as Dr. Irving Finegarten, S.O.B., written by Blake Edwards:
- I could sue you, Polly. A shyster is a disreputable lawyer. I'm a quack.
- shyster at OneLook Dictionary Search