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Pietro Longhi: The Charlatan, 1757


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


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


mountebank (plural mountebanks)

  1. One who sells dubious medicines.
  2. One who sells by deception; a con artist.
    Synonyms: charlatan, conman, fake, quack; see also Thesaurus:confidence trickster
    • 1928, Virginia Woolf, Orlando: A Biography[1], London: The Hogarth Press, OCLC 297407, page 83:
      Donne was a mountebank who wrapped up his lack of meaning in hard words.
    • 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——”
    • 2015 March 31, Margalit Fox, “Gary Dahl, Inventor of the Pet Rock, Dies at 78”, in The New York Times[2], ISSN 0362-4331:
      Gary Dahl, the man behind that scheme—described variously as a marketing genius and a genial mountebank—died on March 23 at 78.
  3. Any boastful, false pretender.
  4. (obsolete) An acrobat.

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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.


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