Green’s Dictionary of Slang

shyster n.

also shice, shise, shuyster, shyster lawyer
[Ger. Scheisser, shitter or Du. scheidsman or schiedsreichter, an arbitrator, an umpire. Alternatively, f. a New York lawyer named Scheuster (pron. shyster), whose courtroom antics so infuriated Justice Osborne of the city’s Essex Market Court that he began talking of ‘scheuster’ practices; for full discussion see Quinion, World Wide Words (2004)]

1. (orig. US) a lawyer, usu. a crooked one, or with the implication that any lawyer is innately untrustworthy; thus attrib. (e.g. cit. 2000).

[US] Subterranean (NY) 2 Dec. n.p.: That equally contemptible wretch and pettiffogging shyster, Waterbury [ibid.] Whiting the jury-packing shyster.
[US]Tioga Eagle (Wellsboro, PA) 26 Feb. 1/3: Mr. Van Witherem rose to give as an irregular toast: ‘The Shuysters and Skinners of the Tombs – it is true they were the outsiders of the profession, but still as they hung to the skirts of the regulars, and had been partakers of the fleece, he did not see how they could suffer such sharp practice to be shorn of every shred of the usual honors.’ -- Here the president interposed and insisted that the Skinners and Shuysters had brought the profession into disgrace [etc.].
[US]G.G. Foster N.Y. in Slices 20: The ‘shyster’ lawyers – set of turkey-buzzards, whose touch is pollution and whose breath is pestilence.
[US]Broadway Belle (NY) 10 Sept. n.p.: Broken-down politicians; Shyster lawyers; French cooks and bottle-washers.
[US]‘Q.K. Philander Doesticks’ Elephant Club 258: It may be reasonably supposed that his success has excited the envy of the ‘shysters’; for [...] they have to sit oftentimes a whole morning beside their respective columns at the Tombs, without being called upon to defend a case.
[US]P.T. Barnum Humbugs of the World 334: In 1776, the Count and Countess came to London. Here, funnily enough, they fell into the hands of a gambler, a shyster, and a female scamp, who together tormented them almost to death.
[US]Galaxy (N.Y.) Oct. 497: Many of them, however, he knows intimately, and among them are Peppermint Joe, Jim Brady, George Love, Fred Larther, and Charley Eberhardt, first-class burglars; Jack Sheppard, who maintains the traditional glories of his name by being the most daring and expert cart thief alive; Spence Pettis, Jimmy the Kid, Shyster McLanghlin, general sneaks; and many others of less note.
[US]N.Y. Herald 6 Aug. 6/2: During the eight or ten hours that these courts are open for business they are steadily haunted by a host of vultures, who are known as ‘shysters’ but who profess to be called lawyers. With a few honorable exceptions these men are entirely without education or decency, and many of them cannot tell a volume of Parker’s Criminal Law from a Greek Testament.
[US] World (N.Y.) 28 June 4/3: Judge Donohue very properly denounced as ‘simply disgraceful’ the facts disclosed on the argument of a writ returnable before him last Saturday in relation to the scandalous collusion existing between the shyster lawyers who hang around the Tombs and the keeps of the prison.
[US]S.M. Welch Home Hist. 322: The writer happened to be present in his court at the close of the trial of a man, (a sort of shyster lawyer) convicted of a felony.
[US]Atlantic Monthly Dec. 831: The tone in which people say, ‘Oh, he’s a politician,’ is not that in which they say, ‘He’s a doctor,’ or ‘He’s a lawyer;’ it sounds much more like that which accompanies the word ‘shyster’ or ‘quack’.
[US]N.Y. Trib. 6 Aug. 41/2: Deceit is the fundamental trait of the successful ‘shyster’.
[US]L.W. Payne Jr ‘Word-List From East Alabama’ in DN III:v 369: shyster, n. Primarily a sneaky, unprincipled lawyer, but applied to any sort of rascal or quack.
[US]J. Sullivan ‘Criminal Sl.’ in Amer. Law Rev. LII (1918) 890: A ‘swell mouthpiece’ is a very good lawyer, while a very bad one is called a ‘shyster.’.
[US]N.Y. Eve. Post 10 Jan. n.p.: Whether or not Bingham’s dismissal was intended to make easier the work of shysters and their ilk, it is well known that the shysters interpreted it thus.
[US]F. Packard White Moll 120: Perlmer, a shyster lawyer, had acted for them all collectively.
[US]J. Black You Can’t Win (2000) 89: One of the shyster lawyers, or ‘stir steerers,’ as the bums call them, came over to me.
[US]M.C. Sharpe Chicago May (1929) 208: The experiences of Sam Weller’s old man with the shyster-lawyer, who pretended to have a pull with the judges, and had no pull at all, except for petty graft, was a scream.
[US](con. 1910s) J.T. Farrell Young Lonigan in Studs Lonigan (1936) 12: He was, after all, only a shyster lawyer.
[Aus](con. WWI) L. Mann Flesh in Armour 282: ‘Your executors will collect it.’ ‘You be — for an old shyster’.
[US]R. Chandler ‘Goldfish’ in Red Wind (1946) 157: Rush Madder was a shyster in the Quorn Building.
[US](con. 1920s) Dos Passos Big Money in USA (1966) 991: O’Higgins, a shyster lawyer he’d met a couple of times back in Detroit.
[UK]V. Davis Phenomena in Crime 63: Rothstein [...] sent down a shyster lawyer.
[US]‘Digg Mee’ ‘Observation Post’ in N.Y. Age 18 May 10/5: If you read don’t please you, get your shyster and try to sue me.
[US]H. McCoy Kiss Tomorrow Goodbye in Four Novels (1983) 270: ‘See you around, Shice,’ I said. He seemed delighted to have me use his nickname.
[US]N. Algren Man with the Golden Arm 185: All the well-tried ancestral foes: [...] bad luck and adultery, old age and shyster lawyers, quack doctors and ambitious cops.
[US](con. 1920s) ‘Harry Grey’ Hoods (1953) 134: Let the shise in the legal department break his balls with it.
[US]R. Chandler Long Good-Bye 295: ‘What a talkative lad he is,’ Ohls said, ‘when he doesn’t have three shysters with him to button his lip.’.
[SA]L.F. Freed Crime in S. Afr. 106: A ‘shyster’ or ‘sharking shyster’ is an unscrupulous lawyer.
[US]C. Himes Blind Man with a Pistol (1971) 111: There’s shysters on the sidelines to cry brutality, like a Greek chorus.
[US]E. Torres After Hours 8: He was teamed up with a shyster name of Woodrow Wilson Cohen.
[UK]A-Team Storybook 55: There’s shysters would argue that the sun comes up in the west if the fee was fat enough.
[US](con. early 1950s) J. Ellroy L.A. Confidential 314: His attorney is a grandstanding shyster only interested in getting his client out of —.
[US]E. Bunker Mr Blue 250: Sandy convinced me to talk to a sleazeball shyster lawyer who was one of her special johns.
[Aus]S. Maloney Big Ask 149: ‘I think you should get a lawyer,’ I said. Donny scoffed. ‘What good would a shyster do me?’.
[US](con. 1960s) J. Ellroy Blood’s a Rover 26: Shit—there’s Phil’s pet shyster, Chick Weiss.

2. a general term of abuse, the assumption being one who cheats.

[US]‘Ned Buntline’ G’hals of N.Y. 197: ‘You’re a blower – a shyster – a fou-fou!’ said Ralph, contemptuously.
[UK]G.A. Sala My Diary in America I 353: You are bidden to sleep with a drunken ‘shyster’ who goes to bed in his boots.
[US]J. O’Connor Wanderings of a Vagabond 326: Their proprietors can now shut their doors against rowdies, ruffians, dead-beats, shysters, and checkcharmers, without the least apprehensions on the score of violence.
[US]Star-Gaz. (Elmira, NY) 15 May 4/3: Yale College Slang [...] It is easy to express your dislike [...] without even bordering on profanity. He is [...] a ‘T. Willie,’ a ‘jay,’ a ‘shyster,’ a ‘bag of wind.
[UK]E. Pugh Spoilers 25: Come on, you mutton-headed old shyster.
[US]S. Ford Torchy 120: It’s a gag them curb shysters has wore to a frazzle.
[UK]E. Pugh Harry The Cockney 118: You are such a silly shyster, Algy, not to drink while you’re on a job.
[Scot]‘Ian Hay’ First Hundred Thousand (1918) 35: That’s the last of the shysters [...] Been weeding them out for six weeks.
[UK]Framlingham Wkly News 8 Dec. 3/7: Thieves’ Dialect [...] Woe betide the ‘shyster’ (cheat) who tries and ‘duck-shoving’ (bamboozling).
[US]H. Miller Tropic of Cancer (1963) 131: [of an analyst] I don’t want to see these little shysters with goatees and frock coats.
[US]J.T. Farrell World I Never Made 55: Oh, you bad boy! You little shyster.
[US](con. 1920s) Dos Passos Big Money in USA (1966) 991: O’Higgins, a shyster lawyer he’d met a couple of times back in Detroit.
[US]R. Chandler Little Sister 241: Who are you? A cheap shyster, a nobody.
[Aus]T.A.G. Hungerford Riverslake 119: The old shyster always adopted the elder statesman approach with him.
[US]H.S. Thompson letter 22 March in Proud Highway (1997) 209: Kramer is a liar, cheat, passer of bad checks, welshing shyster.
[UK]‘P.B. Yuill’ Hazell and the Three-card Trick (1977) 75: I don’t know where that little shyster will take me next.
[UK]P. Bailey An Eng. Madam 38: He was a con man [...] a right bloody shyster.
[UK](con. 1950s) J. Byrne Slab Boys [film script] 65: In other words, you’re a bloody shyster, get me!
[UK]K. Sampson Powder 132: I don’t like the little shyster, but you’ve got to hand it to him.
[UK]Guardian Rev. 19 Feb. 7: The way he writes about crooks and shysters is tinged with sympathy.
[UK]K. Waterhouse Soho 194: A couple of shysters were already setting up an orange box for a Find the Lady game.

3. a crooked business man.

[US]S. Lewis Babbitt (1974) 39: 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.
[Aus](con. 1830s–60s) ‘Miles Franklin’ All That Swagger 71: Live stock would not include so many ‘shicers’ if one were wary of ‘shysters’.
[Aus]X. Herbert Capricornia (1939) 306: You lousy, sweatin’ old shyster you.

4. attrib. use of sense 3.

[US]Larner & Tefferteller Addict in the Street (1966) 87: I’ve had a shyster psychiatrist say that I was not well, and after everything was dropped he declared me sane again.

5. (UK Und.) one who refuses to pay their debts.

[UK] ‘English Und. Sl.’ in Variety 8 Apr. n.p.: Knocker or shyster—Welsher.
[Aus]X. Herbert Capricornia (1939) 468: [He] went so far as to call him a Bloody Shyster.

6. see shicer n. (5)