I understand "a dodgy con artist" as "a tricky artist who imitates the work of famous artists and sells the imitated as true for money." Am I on the right track?

Before becoming possibly the richest man in history (taking inflation into account), John Rockefeller was the lowly son of a dodgy con artist and high-school student in suburban Cleveland, Ohio. Although he had some education, by the time he was sixteen, Rockefeller decided it was time to shirk school and begin a career—with the goal of earning $100,000 in his lifetime.

Source: 10 Poorly Educated But Incredibly Successful People

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    Note that this is a tautology, as a "con artist" is, by definition, "dodgy"
    – Strawberry
    Commented May 9, 2021 at 12:10
  • Did you try looking up "con" or "con artist"?
    – Kat
    Commented May 10, 2021 at 14:41
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    @Strawberry amen. it's like 'deplorable rapist', 'disgusting terrorist' or 'appalling murderer'...i guess. wait i don't think it's a tautology. i think it's just emphasis like saying 'soft pillow' (where pillows may be hard, but they're generally soft...)
    – BCLC
    Commented May 10, 2021 at 16:34

2 Answers 2


"Con artist" is short for "confidence artist" - the medium they work in and manipulate is people's confidence or trust. "Dodgy" often refers to someone who is successful in evading accountability for harm they've caused, and who has morals the describer likely disagrees with.

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    My dictionary defines "dodgy" as "dishonest or unreliable". That's also how I took it in this context. As mentioned in a comment, it's redundant for con artists. It's presumably being used for emphasis.
    – Barmar
    Commented May 10, 2021 at 14:56
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    @Barmar That's what I was going to say, dodgy usually means something that's untrustworthy, like a "dodgy contract" or a "dodgy used car" -- it's nothing to do with evading accountability, it's just expressing doubt in its dependability. Commented May 10, 2021 at 17:17

Not quite. The phrase "con artist" does not mean someone who counterfeits paintings or sculpture. "Artist" here is being used in a more general sense to refer to anyone who is very good at something. Like you might say, "the chef is an artist at creating great desserts". So the phrase "con artist" means "someone who is very good at cheating people out of their money" (or perhaps some other form of deception).

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    In the UK we talk about 'piss artists' (habitual drunkards). Commented May 9, 2021 at 7:00
  • @MichaelHarvey A "piss artist" can also be someone who messes around/wastes time ("pisses around").
    – psmears
    Commented May 10, 2021 at 10:15
  • @MichaelHarvey In parts of the UK, perhaps. I've never heard the term before in my life. Commented May 10, 2021 at 17:39
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    @AnthonyGrist - Have you lived all your life on an island in the Hebrides? Commented May 10, 2021 at 17:42

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