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I couldn't think about a word which would describe a mercenary-minded person, a huckster, who with the right haggled price would sell his mother.

7 Answers 7

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My first thought was Mountebank, but that seemed a bit 'old', so if that doesn't work, how's Grifter for a synonym?
Selected definitions from Dictionary.com and others:

mountebank: con-man, a swindler, dishonest gambler, or the like.
grifter: charlatan, pitchman, snake-oil salesman.

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  • Seems pretty close. This seems to apply to petty haggler, is there anything for a swindler of larger scale?
    – Al Guy
    Commented Nov 28, 2015 at 3:22
  • Hmmm... I looked up "Swindler" as I thought that would actually be the best word, and found "Scoundrel" which may be a better descriptor for the personality of someone who would sell his own mother for the right price, but not so much of the particular business of doing so. I'll chew on it a bit more; I'd say you're looking for a synonym of "Salesman" that has the same negative connotation as 'scoundrel'.
    – hpp3
    Commented Dec 11, 2015 at 6:45
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I couldn't think about a word which would describe a mercenary-minded person, a huckster, who with the right haggled price would sell his mother.

Not certain "huckster" has anything to do with mother-selling at all. A huckster is someone who can sell sand to the Arabs [or insert your own similar phrase here]. The nearest I believe are "snake-oil salesman" or "shyster" but a "charlatan" also possibly works.

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Personally, I would say a mercenary or higgler, the first one meaning doing shady things for money, the second meaning someone who peddles various items.

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    Commented May 16, 2022 at 15:51
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Unscrupulous

having or showing no moral principles; not honest or fair. (Lexico)

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  • That seems to be mild and general.
    – Al Guy
    Commented Nov 28, 2015 at 0:53
  • "Showing no moral principles" is a rather strong condemnation of somebody's personality.
    – IconDaemon
    Commented Nov 28, 2015 at 0:56
  • +1 because I think this is exactly what the OP is seeking. If you would sell your mother for the right price, then you are (generally) thought of as having little regard for the morality of the action.
    – Robert S
    Commented Nov 28, 2015 at 4:50
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Maybe unscrupulous shark (credits to JEL and IconDaemon for "unscrupulous").

Example: Morgan, who seems to monopolize every major and minor trade in the country, is the stereotypical unscrupulous shark, who always finds justification for his actions.

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There's always the

cheap-jack, n 1. a person who sells cheap and shoddy goods.

The noun borrows a connotation from a sense of the adjective:

  1. unscrupulous or underhanded

(cheap-jack. (n.d.) Random House Kernerman Webster’s College Dictionary. (2010). Retrieved November 27 2015 from http://www.thefreedictionary.com/cheap-jack).

Merriam-Webster defines 'cheapjack' with exactly your term:

1 : a haggling huckster

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  • Is this a British term? I'm in the U.S. and am unfamiliar with the word.
    – JLG
    Commented Nov 28, 2015 at 1:27
  • @JLG, the sources I've been able to check thus far (Collins and Random House) mention nothing about it being British. I'm in the US and have encountered it, but my memory is not specific about where, and I've read a lot of British authors, so that's not a strong indication of anything in particular. I'll check some other sources when I have access and let you know.
    – JEL
    Commented Nov 28, 2015 at 1:31
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From Merriam-webster

Huckster referred to a small time salesman of aggressive if not questionable methods. It has made its way to describing anyone who sells avidly or attempts to convince others of the value of their product whether material or political or matriarchal.

Middle English hukster, from Middle Dutch hokester, from hoeken to peddle

Such a hawker or peddler would sell all they have for their next meal but not necessarily their mother. For that you need a con-man or mountebank as stated.

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