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From Italian montambanco (quack who mounts a bench to hawk his wares) contracted from monta-in-banco (mount on bench).[1]

Pietro Longhi: The Charlatan, 1757


  • IPA(key): /ˈmaʊntəˌbæŋk/
  • (file)


mountebank (plural mountebanks)

  1. One who sells dubious medicines.
    • 1712, John Arbuthnot, The History of John Bull
      There is nothing so impossible in Nature but mountebanks will undertake; nothing so incredible but they will affirm.
  2. One who sells by deception; a con artist; a charlatan.
    • 1951, Isaac Asimov, Foundation (1974 Panther Books Ltd publication), part III: “The Mayors”, chapter 7, page 106, ¶ 13
      “Are you allowing yourselves to be fooled by this mountebank, this harlequin? Do you cringe before a religion compounded of clouds and moonbeams? This man is an imposter and the Galactic Spirit he speaks of a fraud of the imagination devised to——”
  3. (obsolete) An acrobat.


* For quotations using this term, see Citations:mountebank.


See also[edit]


mountebank (third-person singular simple present mountebanks, present participle mountebanking, simple past and past participle mountebanked)

  1. (intransitive) To act as a mountebank.
  2. (transitive) To cheat by boasting and false pretenses.

Derived terms[edit]


  1. ^ Funk, W. J., Word origins and their romantic stories, New York, Wilfred Funk, Inc.