Benjamin Zimmer bgzimmer at BABEL.LING.UPENN.EDU
Wed Apr 30 17:01:51 UTC 2008

On Wed, Apr 30, 2008 at 12:01 AM, Dave Wilton <dave at> wrote:
>  While "card sharp" is indeed about a century older than "card
>  shark" (which is first attested to in Berrey and Van Den Bark's 1942
>  _American Thesaurus of Slang_), the use of "shark," meaning a cheat and
>  person who makes a living in disreputable ways goes back to 1599 (shark, n2.
>  in the OED).

Last time this came up I supplied this 1884 cite for "card shark":

1884 _Perry (Iowa) Pilot_ 2 Apr. 8/3 Perhaps it is that the most
picturesque and attractive men to be found in New York streets, are
bunko men, card sharks, adventurers and dissipated club men, who live
without visible means of support.

Mark Liberman posted an 1858 cite for "card sharp" here:

So that's only about a quarter century difference (pending further antedatings).

--Ben Zimmer

The American Dialect Society -

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