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

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Other Words from charlatan

charlatanism \ ˈshär-​lə-​tə-​ˌni-​zəm How to pronounce charlatanism (audio) \ noun
charlatanry \ ˈshär-​lə-​tən-​rē How to pronounce charlatanry (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 According to The New York Times, Goop has since hired a full-time fact-checker, but, for the most part, it has been undeterred by the accusations of being charlatans in cashmere sweaters, and the Netflix show seems designed to bait its detractors. Jessica Weisberg, The New Republic, "Everything Is OK in Goop Lab," 4 Feb. 2020 Many have challenged his claims, accusing him of being everything from a liar and an opportunistic charlatan to a government patsy. Jordan Runtagh,, "The Storming of Area 51: A Covert Journey to the Heart of America’s Worst-Kept Secret," 13 Jan. 2020 And for that, we were called fear mongers, charlatans, and scam artists. Eric Spitznagel, Popular Mechanics, "‘Here We Go. The Chaos Is Starting’: An Oral History of Y2K," 27 Dec. 2019 When Paris Hilton, the heiress once known for enjoying nightclubs as a patron, made her way to the DJ booth in 2012, she was criticized as an interloper and assumed to be a charlatan. Billboard Staff, Billboard, "The Top 100 Moments of the EDM Decade," 17 Dec. 2019 Neither a charlatan nor a virtuoso, Michael Bay is simply Michael Bay. Richard Newby, The Hollywood Reporter, "'6 Underground,' Michael Bay and the Edge of Good and Bad," 16 Dec. 2019 His account of the charlatans of digital influence rings true to me. Clint Watts, Washington Post, "Inside the unscrupulous world of social-media manipulation with a penitent whistleblower," 11 Oct. 2019 The twist is that the kids and their biological dad, a guy who happens to be the object of a cruel charlatan queen’s (Sylvia Hoeks) obsession, can see. Judy Berman, Time, "What to Watch—and What to Skip—on Apple TV+," 28 Oct. 2019 Into the void created by the lack of authoritative studies, charlatans have rushed in. Peter Rowe, San Diego Union-Tribune, "CBDs: a ‘Wild West’ of wild claims," 20 Oct. 2019

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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The first known use of charlatan was in 1618

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Last Updated

9 Feb 2020

Cite this Entry

“Charlatan.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 18 Feb. 2020.

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More Definitions for charlatan


How to pronounce charlatan (audio)

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

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