charlatan

noun
char·​la·​tan | \ ˈshär-lə-tən \

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

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Other Words from charlatan

charlatanism \ ˈshär-​lə-​tə-​ˌni-​zəm \ noun
charlatanry \ ˈshär-​lə-​tən-​rē \ 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

Hinton Rowan Helper was one such, a bit of a charlatan with a streak of genius. Charles R. Morris, WSJ, "‘The Longest Line on the Map’ Review: The End of the Road," 8 Jan. 2019 The other is the word being hijacked by entrepreneurs, quacks, and charlatans to sell a bogus treatment that allegedly detoxifies your body of toxins you’re supposed to have accumulated. Brittney Mcnamara, Teen Vogue, "Detox Diets Aren't Real or Healthy — and Body "Toxins" Don't Exist," 1 Jan. 2019 But does that mean Boyce Watkins is a con artist or a charlatan? Michael Harriot, The Root, "How Boyce Watkins Became the Negro Whisperer, Explained," 6 Feb. 2018 But where some see an advocate, many others — particularly white people in town — see a charlatan. New York Times, "From Fighting Injustice to Facing Death Row: The Bizarre Case of Pastor Glasgow," 7 July 2018 Some people wonder: why did so many bright young Japanese fall for such an obvious charlatan? The Economist, "On the hanging of Shoko Asahara, Japan’s nerve-gas guru," 12 July 2018 Still, none of West’s previous actions have elicited as much furor as his recent support of Donald Trump, his assertion that four centuries of slavery sounded like a choice—by the enslaved, or his cozying up to right-wing charlatans. Julian Kimble, GQ, "So Appalled: Kanye West Fans Debate What to Do with All that Yeezy Merch," 22 June 2018 And medicine, like any other profession, has its charlatans and jerks, and is certainly being perverted by the bean counters. Judith Shulevitz, New York Times, "Is Our Obsession With Wellness Doing Us In?," 11 June 2018 Florida is using nearly $1 billion of your tax dollars to teach kids in voucher schools fake science and distorted history — all because uneducated charlatans have figured out how to intimidate state legislators. Lauren Ritchie, OrlandoSentinel.com, "Florida must stop paying $1 billion a year to 'educate' children in fringe religious nonsense," 9 June 2018

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.

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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

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Dictionary Entries near charlatan

chark

charka

charlady

charlatan

charlatanic

charlatanish

Charlemagne

Statistics for charlatan

Last Updated

14 Jan 2019

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Time Traveler for charlatan

The first known use of charlatan was in 1618

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More Definitions for charlatan

charlatan

noun

English Language Learners Definition of charlatan

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

charlatan

noun
char·​la·​tan | \ ˈshär-lə-tən \

Kids Definition of charlatan

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

charlatan

noun
char·​la·​tan | \ ˈshär-lət-ən \

Medical Definition of charlatan

: quack

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Comments on charlatan

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