char·​la·​tan | \ ˈshär-lə-tən How to pronounce charlatan (audio) \

Definition of charlatan

1 : quack entry 4 sense 2 charlatans harming their patients with dubious procedures
2 : one making usually showy pretenses to knowledge or ability : fraud, faker a charlatan willing to do and say virtually anything to remain in the spotlight— Alan Brinkley

Other Words from charlatan

charlatanism \ ˈshär-​lə-​tə-​ˌni-​zəm How to pronounce charlatan (audio) \ noun
charlatanry \ ˈshär-​lə-​tən-​rē How to pronounce charlatan (audio) \ noun

Did you know?

In medieval times, people claiming medical skills they did not have roamed throughout Italy, selling "medicine" that was often completely without worth. Many of these pretenders reputedly came from a village called Cerreto, and as a result, cerretano (meaning "inhabitant of Cerreto") became an epithet for a quack physician. In addition, these frauds used a practiced patter to attract customers, rather like the chatter of a circus barker. The Italian word for "chatter" is ciarlare, and chattering was so associated with the cerretano that the spelling of the word shifted to ciarlatano. By the early 17th century, we had anglicized the Italian word to charlatan and adopted it as our own.

Examples of charlatan in a Sentence

the famed faith healer turned out to be a charlatan
Recent Examples on the Web Federal prosecutors spent much of the trial providing testimony and evidence to depict Holmes as a charlatan obsessed with fame and fortune. Michael Liedtke,, 4 Jan. 2022 Federal prosecutors depicted Holmes as a charlatan obsessed with fame and fortune. Michael Liedtke, ajc, 4 Jan. 2022 Bostic's rebuttal echoed many of the themes touched upon in Thursday's arguments, when fellow prosecutor Jeffrey Schenk cast Holmes as a charlatan who brazenly lied to become rich and famous. Michael Liedtke, USA TODAY, 20 Dec. 2021 Government prosecutors have painted Holmes as a charlatan who duped investors, business partners and patients in pursuit of fame and fortune while positioning herself as a visionary similar her hero Steve Jobs, the co-founder of Apple. Michael Liedtke,, 16 Dec. 2021 This is the paradox of Éric Zemmour: those who accept him as he is see him as a charlatan, and most of those who love him might want a fundamental part of him to disappear. James Mcauley, The New York Review of Books, 16 Dec. 2021 Benedetta’s rise to power ignites the indignation of Sister Christina (Louise Chevillotte), who tries to out her as a charlatan and a heretic. Los Angeles Times, 3 Dec. 2021 While the charlatan won’t ever stop daydreaming of magically zooming up the social ladder, the film is clear-eyed about the desolation that lays before him. Washington Post, 8 Oct. 2021 The deeper problem is that these movies perpetuate dubious biographical clichés about Welles, characterizing him variously as a tyrant, a charlatan, or a drunk. Alex Ross, The New Yorker, 2 Apr. 2021

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'charlatan.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

See More

First Known Use of charlatan

1618, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for charlatan

Italian ciarlatano, alteration of cerretano, literally, inhabitant of Cerreto, from Cerreto, Italy

Learn More About charlatan

Time Traveler for charlatan

Time Traveler

The first known use of charlatan was in 1618

See more words from the same year

Listen to Our Podcast About charlatan

Dictionary Entries Near charlatan




See More Nearby Entries 

Statistics for charlatan

Last Updated

8 Jan 2022

Cite this Entry

“Charlatan.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 19 Jan. 2022.

Style: MLA
MLACheck Mark Icon ChicagoCheck Mark Icon APACheck Mark Icon Merriam-WebsterCheck Mark Icon

More Definitions for charlatan



English Language Learners Definition of charlatan

: a person who falsely pretends to know or be something in order to deceive people


char·​la·​tan | \ ˈshär-lə-tən How to pronounce charlatan (audio) \

Kids Definition of charlatan

: a person who falsely pretends to know or be something The charlatan sold useless medicinal potions.


char·​la·​tan | \ ˈshär-lət-ən How to pronounce charlatan (audio) \

Medical Definition of charlatan

: quack

More from Merriam-Webster on charlatan

Nglish: Translation of charlatan for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of charlatan for Arabic Speakers


Test Your Vocabulary

Farm Idioms Quiz

  • cow coming home
  • What does 'poke' refer to in the expression 'pig in a poke'?
Spell It

Can you spell these 10 commonly misspelled words?

Universal Daily Crossword

A daily challenge for crossword fanatics.

Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!