Definition of charlatan
- charlatans harming their patients with dubious procedures
Theme music by Joshua Stamper ©2006 New Jerusalem Music/ASCAP
the famed faith healer turned out to be a charlatan
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.
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.
: a person who falsely pretends to know or be something in order to deceive people
What made you want to look up charlatan? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).