Trend Watch

HRC: Media Opened Door to 'Charlatans'

Lookups rise over 4,000%


Charlatan hustled its way to the top of our lookups on April 23rd, 2018, after reports of Hillary Clinton using the word in a speech that touched on the media climate of the 2016 election.

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Photo: U.S. Department of State

By the early 19th century, 'charlatan' was used to describe frauds and fakers of any variety.

The word may mean either "an ignorant, misinformed, or dishonest practitioner of medicine" or, more generally, "one making usually showy pretenses to knowledge or ability." It is thought to have come from the Italian ciarlatano, an alteration of the word cerretano, which has the literal meaning of "inhabitant of Cerreto, Italy." This fanciful origin came from the belief at that time that those from Cerreto were chattering medical pretenders.

The word existed in other European languages in the 16th century. A 1590 translation of Antonio del Corro's The Spanish Grammar defined charlatan as "a prattler." By the early 17th century the word had entered into English, and by the early 19th century the word was used to describe frauds and fakers of any variety.

I did the best I could to keep him there, that his presence might animate the souldiers, and convert those headstrong heretickes, which father Arnoux a true spirituall mirror did not well like of, alledging that it was sufficient to have one Charlatan in the Court, in the meane time all is laid upon me, although I am innocent of the unfortunate successe of the siege.
— François Dorval-Langlois Fancan, The Favorites Chronicle, 1621



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