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See also: quack-salver



From Middle Dutch kwaksalver (a hawker of salve) (modern Dutch kwakzalver), from kwaken (to boast, to brag; to croak) + salve (ointment, salve) (modern Dutch zalf) + -er (suffix forming an agent noun).



quacksalver (plural quacksalvers)

  1. (archaic) One falsely claiming to possess medical or other skills, especially one who dispenses potions, ointments, etc., supposedly having curative powers; a quack. [from c. 1570.]
    • 1822, Sir Walter Scott, Peveril of the Peak, ch. 38:
      "Your Grace does not mean Dr. Wilderhead's powder of projection?"
      "Pshaw! he is a quacksalver, and mountebank, and beggar."
    • 1910, Jeffrey Farnol, The Broad Highway, ch 34:
      "I come before you, ladies and gentlemen, . . . to introduce to you what I call my Elixir Anthropos . . . ."
      . . . [H]e listened intently to the quack-salver's address, and from time to time his eyes would twinkle and his lips curve in an ironic smile.
    • 1927, "Town Criers," New York Times, 2 Oct., p. E8:
      One is reminded of a familiar figure of medieval fairs, who survived long in this country [England], and perhaps still survives in remote districts—the quacksalver who hawks his infallible remedies from a wagon.

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