char·​la·​tan ˈshär-lə-tən How to pronounce charlatan (audio)
: quack entry 4 sense 2
charlatans harming their patients with dubious procedures
: one making usually showy pretenses to knowledge or ability : fraud, faker
a charlatan willing to do and say virtually anything to remain in the spotlightAlan Brinkley
charlatanism noun
charlatanry noun

Did you know?

In medieval Italy, people roamed throughout the land selling fake remedies and making false claims about their healing abilities. 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, like the chatter of a circus barker. The Italian word for “to 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, English speakers had anglicized the Italian word to charlatan and adopted it as their own.

Examples of charlatan in a Sentence

the famed faith healer turned out to be a charlatan
Recent Examples on the Web Ozick is fixated on the encroachment of imposters and charlatans. The New Yorker, 26 June 2024 In 2013, one charlatan was convicted of selling nearly $70 million in fake bomb detectors to Iraqi police. Aja Romano, Vox, 18 June 2024 Anthony Trollope wrote about scheming bankers and charlatans too. Jackson McHenry, Vulture, 5 June 2024 In the document, church leaders expressed concern about charlatans attempting to make money or gain power by manipulating people's beliefs. Eric Lagatta, USA TODAY, 17 May 2024 See all Example Sentences for charlatan 

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'charlatan.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History


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

First Known Use

1618, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Time Traveler
The first known use of charlatan was in 1618


Dictionary Entries Near charlatan

Cite this Entry

“Charlatan.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 13 Jul. 2024.

Kids Definition


char·​la·​tan ˈshär-lə-tən How to pronounce charlatan (audio)
: a person who pretends to have knowledge or ability

from Italian ciarlatano "charlatan," an altered form of cerretano (same meaning), literally, "inhabitant of Cerreto (village in Italy)"

Word Origin
In the early 16th century people claiming medical skills they did not really have wandered throughout Italy. They sold medicines of little or no value. Because many of these fakers came from a village called Cerreto, the name cerretano, meaning "inhabitant of Cerreto," became a general name for a medical faker. Such people always had a line of talk to help them sell their products. Through the influence of the Italian word ciarlare, meaning "to chatter," the word cerretano, when used to refer to these fakers, became ciarlatano. It is from this word that we get our English charlatan.

Medical Definition


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

More from Merriam-Webster on charlatan

Last Updated: - Updated example sentences
Love words? Need even more definitions?

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