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moun·​te·​bank ˈmau̇n-ti-ˌbaŋk How to pronounce mountebank (audio)
: a person who sells quack medicines from a platform
: a boastful unscrupulous pretender : charlatan
mountebankery noun


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mountebanked; mountebanking; mountebanks

transitive verb

obsolete : to beguile or transform by trickery
I'll mountebank their lovesWilliam Shakespeare

intransitive verb

obsolete : to play the mountebank

Did you know?

Mountebank derives from the Italian montimbanco, which was formed by combining the verb "montare" ("to mount"), the preposition "in" (converted to im, meaning "in" or "on"), and the noun "banco" ("bench"). Put these components together and you can deduce the literal origins of "mountebank" as someone mounted on a bench - the "bench" being the platform on which charlatans from the 16th and 17th centuries would stand to sell their phony medicines. Mountebanks often included various forms of light entertainment on stage in order to attract customers. Later, extended uses of "mountebank" referred to someone who falsely claims to have knowledge about a particular subject or a person who simply pretends to be something he or she is not in order to gain attention.

Examples of mountebank in a Sentence

Noun a gang of swindlers and mountebanks claimed that many doctors were frauds and mountebanks
Recent Examples on the Web
Now, this pallid Color Purple epitomizes the artistic dearth of an era when a cultural mountebank like Winfrey uses race and feminist guile to cheat us of America’s most creative achievements. Armond White, National Review, 3 Jan. 2024 The Republican, who is angling for the GOP nomination for president, staged a roundtable of scientific mountebanks on Wednesday to attack the vaccines. Michael Hiltzik, Los Angeles Times, 15 Sep. 2023 The alternative circumstance, that crackpots and mountebanks might claim such evidence exists, then fail to produce any, is, on the other hand, entirely plausible and familiar. Timothy Noah, The New Republic, 31 July 2023 Berk was no mountebank or philistine. Mimi Kramer, Vulture, 10 May 2022 Another was Charles Colchester, a mountebank who also conjured Willie to the satisfaction of the first lady. John J. Miller, WSJ, 30 Oct. 2022 Or does the word seem a little shifty, denoting a modern-day mountebank (another great word), bent on self-promotion, unscrupulous precisely because no special degree is required? Will Jeakle, Forbes, 29 June 2021 American politicians, the pusillanimous and the mountebanks and even their opposites, used to be as highfalutin as Foghorn Leghorn with their gibes, which made politics fun for fans of Shakespeare, the Bible or obscure history. oregonlive, 31 Mar. 2020 He was ignored on almost every major issue by the incredible cast of fools and mountebanks with whom the president* has surrounded himself. Charles P. Pierce, Esquire, 13 Mar. 2018

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'mountebank.' 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 montimbanco, from montare to mount + in in, on + banco, banca bench

First Known Use


1566, in the meaning defined at sense 1


circa 1616, in the meaning defined at transitive sense

Time Traveler
The first known use of mountebank was in 1566


Dictionary Entries Near mountebank

Cite this Entry

“Mountebank.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 12 Jun. 2024.

Kids Definition


: a person who peddles fake medicines (as at fairs and carnivals) by trickery
: a boastful dishonest pretender : charlatan

Medical Definition


moun·​te·​bank ˈmau̇nt-i-ˌbaŋk How to pronounce mountebank (audio)
: an itinerant hawker of pills and patent medicines especially from a platform : quack
bought an unction of a mountebankShak.
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