a person who pretends or claims to have more knowledge or skill than he or she possesses; quack.

Origin of charlatan

1595–1605; < Middle French < Italian ciarlatano, equivalent to ciarla(tore) chatterer (derivative of ciarlare to chatter; from imitative root) + (cerre)tano hawker, quack, literally, native of Cerreto, a village in Umbria, known for its quacks
Related formschar·la·tan·ic [shahr-luh-tan-ik] /ˌʃɑr ləˈtæn ɪk/, char·la·tan·i·cal, char·la·tan·ish, char·la·tan·is·tic, adjectivechar·la·tan·i·cal·ly, adverb

Synonyms for charlatan Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for charlatan

Contemporary Examples of charlatan

Historical Examples of charlatan

  • Surely nobody would be a charlatan who could afford to be sincere.

    Essays, Second Series

    Ralph Waldo Emerson

  • Hugh could not help thinking there was more or less of the charlatan about the man.

    David Elginbrod

    George MacDonald

  • If I were a mountebank or a charlatan I would claim that it cures a hundred diseases.

    The Gypsies

    Charles G. Leland

  • The charlatan, however, steadily refused the Bishop's advice.

    The Minister of Evil

    William Le Queux

  • Where is the difference, after all, between you and any charlatan of the lot?

    Robert Elsmere

    Mrs. Humphry Ward

British Dictionary definitions for charlatan



someone who professes knowledge or expertise, esp in medicine, that he or she does not have; quack
Derived Formscharlatanism or charlatanry, nouncharlatanistic, adjective

Word Origin for charlatan

C17: from French, from Italian ciarlatano, from ciarlare to chatter
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012

Word Origin and History for charlatan

1610s, from French charlatan "mountebank, babbler" (16c.), from Italian ciarlatano "a quack," from ciarlare "to prate, babble," from ciarla "chat, prattle," perhaps imitative of ducks' quacking. Related: Charlatanism; charlatanical; charlatanry.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

Medicine definitions for charlatan




A person fraudulently claiming knowledge and skills not possessed.
The American Heritage® Stedman's Medical Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.