1 : a person who sells quack medicines from a platform
2 : a boastful unscrupulous pretender : charlatan
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.
In his newspaper column, Gavin criticized the talk-radio host as "a mountebank whose 'expert' opinions and advice are complete hooey."
"Bring your five-minute tales related to all things fraudulent and pseudo. Flimflammers, mountebanks, poseurs and snake oil salesmen especially welcome." -- From a literary events listing by Gina Webb in The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, September 25, 2011
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