Definition from Wiktionary, the free dictionary
Jump to navigation Jump to search



  • IPA(key): /kwæk/
  • (file)
  • Rhymes: -æk

Etymology 1[edit]

From Middle English *quacken, queken (to croak like a frog; make a noise like a duck, goose, or quail), from quack, qwacke, quek, queke (quack, interjection and noun), also kek, keke, whec-, partly of imitative origin and partly from Middle Dutch quacken (to croak, quack), from Old Dutch *kwaken (to croak, quack), from Proto-West Germanic *kwakōn, from Proto-Germanic *kwakaną, *kwakōną (to croak), of imitative origin.[1] Cognate with Saterland Frisian kwoakje, kwaakje (to quack), Middle Low German quaken (to quack, croak), German quaken (to quack, croak), Danish kvække (to croak), Swedish kväka (to croak, quackle), Norwegian kvekke (to croak), Icelandic kvaka (to twitter, chirp, quack).

Alternative forms[edit]


quack (plural quacks)

  1. The sound made by a duck.
    Did you hear that duck make a quack?


quack (third-person singular simple present quacks, present participle quacking, simple past and past participle quacked)

  1. To make a noise like a duck.
    The more breadcrumbs I threw on the ground, the more they quacked.
    Do you hear the ducks quack?
  2. (intransitive) Of a queen bee: to make a high-pitched sound during certain stages of development.
    Coordinate terms: toot, pipe
Derived terms[edit]


  1. ^ Robert E. Lewis, Middle English dictionary, Volume 8, queke.

Etymology 2[edit]

Clipping of quacksalver, from Middle Dutch kwaksalver (hawker of salve) (modern Dutch kwakzalver), from quacken (to brag, boast; to croak). Ultimately related to etymology one, above.


quack (plural quacks)

  1. A fraudulent healer or incompetent professional; especially, a doctor of medicine who makes false diagnoses or inappropriate treatment; an impostor who claims to have qualifications to practice medicine. [from c. 1630]
    That doctor is nothing but a lousy quack!
    • 1636, John Ford, The Fancies Chaste and Noble
      The very quack of fashions, the very he that / Wears a stiletto on his chin.
    • 1662, Rump: or an Exact Collection of the Choycest Poems and Songs Relating to Late Times, Vol. II, by ‘the most Eminent Wits’
      Tis hard to say, how much these Arse-wormes do urge us, We now need no Quack but these Jacks for to purge us, [...]
    • 1720, William Derham, Physico-theology:
      After ſome Months, the Quack gets privately to Town, [...]
    • 1843, Thomas Carlyle, Past and Present, book 2, ch. 8, The Electon
      ‘if we are ourselves valets, there shall ‘exist no hero for us; we shall not know the hero when we see him;’ - we shall take the quack for a hero; and cry, audibly through all ballot-boxes and machinery whatsoever, Thou art he; be thou King over us!
    • 1885, W[illiam] S[chwenck] Gilbert; Arthur Sullivan, composer, “A More Humane Mikado”, in [] The Mikado; or, The Town of Titipu, London: Chappel & Co., [], OCLC 25083293, Act II, page 36:
      The advertising quack who wearies / With tales of countless cures, / His teeth, I've enacted, / Shall all be extracted / By terrified amateurs.
    • 1981, S.O.B. (film):
      Polly (to security guard, referring to Dr. Feingarten): Are you going to let that shyster in there?
      Dr. Feingarten: I could sue you, Polly. A shyster is a disreputable lawyer. I'm a quack.
    • 2017 March 1, Jocelyn Samara D., Rain (webcomic), Comic 920 - Quack:
      "I don't want to get into specifics, but when I was born, my parts were considered... ambiguous. The quack of a doctor that delivered me, had trouble assigning a gender. So at his recommendation - and surgical intervention - I was raised as a boy."
  2. A charlatan.
  3. (slang) A doctor.
Derived terms[edit]
The translations below need to be checked and inserted above into the appropriate translation tables, removing any numbers. Numbers do not necessarily match those in definitions. See instructions at Wiktionary:Entry layout § Translations.


quack (third-person singular simple present quacks, present participle quacking, simple past and past participle quacked)

  1. To practice or commit quackery (fraudulent medicine).
    • 1722, Daniel Defoe, A Journal of the Plague Year, London: E. Nutt et al., p. 36,[1]
      [] it is incredible, and scarce to be imagin’d, how the Posts of Houses, and Corners of Streets were plaster’d over with Doctors Bills, and Papers of ignorant Fellows; quacking and tampering in Physick, and inviting the People to come to them for Remedies;
  2. (obsolete) To make vain and loud pretensions.
    Synonym: boast
    • 1684, Samuel Butler, Hudibras, London, Part 3, Canto 1, p. 18,[2]
      Seek out for Plants with Signatures
      To Quack of Universal Cures


quack (comparative more quack or quacker, superlative most quack or quackest) (quacker and quackest are rare, and probably used humorously)

  1. Falsely presented as having medicinal powers.
    Don't get your hopes up; that's quack medicine!
    • 1916 August 5, Henry D. Estabrook, “Truth in Advertising [advertisement]”, in The Duluth Herald, volume XXXIV, number 102, Duluth, Minn.: The Herald Company, OCLC 1567044, page 6:
      [Y]ou have undertaken to rid all our newspapers and periodicals of untrue, unclean and dishonest advertisements. It seems to me that you have already gained your victory and henceforth have only to guard the fruits of it, for, recently I examined as many newspapers and magazines as I could lay hands on just to see if I could find in them those old, alluring advertisements, ranging from the quack doctor to the quacker promoter and the quackest oracle of fate. There was nothing doing—everything as clean as a hound's tooth and as wholesome as sunshine.
    • 1948, The Prospect before Us: Some Thoughts on the Future, London: Sampson Low, Marston & Co., OCLC 503869468, page 102:
      [T]he common man, who until then had suffered dumbly and indolently, might be forced to pay attention. Finding, perhaps, that there is no solution either in politics or in any existing religion, he may cling to the diagnosis of the last and quackest of his doctors: he may believe that art can save himself and the world.
    • 1991, Journal of the Association of Food and Drug Officials, volume 55, York, Pa.: The Association, ISSN 0898-4131, OCLC 17212478, page 35:
      They desperately want to believe something will help and for that reason they assist one another in obtaining unproven remedies. Such "helpful" promotion is generally more "quack" than fraudulent in nature. I define health fraud (or quackery) as the promotion of unproven, often worthless, and sometime dangerous medicinal products.
    • 1997, Jenny Uglow, “Allegories of Healing”, in William Hogarth: A Life and a World, London: Faber and Faber, →ISBN, page 506:
      [William] Hogarth might have felt some sympathy for [Sally] Mapp as an 'irregular' expert besting pomposity, but this is topped by his sheer relish for her as the Quackest Quack of all, and female to boot. In Hogarth's print the dark goddess rules over her court of fools, men who have taken over the ancient realm of women's healing, and now profit from the people's ills and credulity.

Further reading[edit]