From Dutch quacksalver (“a hawker of salve”) (now spelt kwakzalver), derived from Middle Dutch quacsalven (noun or verb), from kwaken (“to boast, to brag; to croak”) + salve (“ointment, salve”) (modern Dutch zalf) + -er (“suffix forming an agent noun”).
- (Received Pronunciation) IPA(key): /ˈkwæksælvə/
Audio (UK) (file)
- (General American) IPA(key): /ˈkwæksælvɚ/
- Hyphenation: quack‧sal‧ver
quacksalver (plural quacksalvers)
- (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]
- 1596, Thomas Nashe, Haue vvith You to Saffron-vvalden. Or, Gabriell Harueys Hunt is vp: Containing a Full Answere to the Eldest Sonne of the Halter-maker. Or, Nashe His Confutation of the Sinfull Doctor. The Mott or Posie, in stead of omne tulit punctum: pacis fiducia nunquam. As much to Say, as I Sayd I would Speake with Him, London: Printed at London by Iohn Danter, OCLC 606512479; reprinted as John Payne Collier, editor, Have with You to Saffron-Walden: Or, Gabriell Harveys Hunt is up. [...] (Miscellaneous Tracts Temp. Eliz. & Jac. 1; 9), [London: s.n., 1870], OCLC 644131351, page 30:
- [F]ree me from thoſe outward encumbrances of cares that over-whelme mee, and let this paraliticke quackſalver fill ten thouſand tunnes with ſcelerata ſinapis, ſhrewiſh ſnappiſh muſtard, as Plautus calls it, […]
- 1710, Abraham Cowley, “Cutter of Coleman-Street”, in The Works of Mr. Abraham Cowley: In Two Volumes. Consisting of Those which were Formerly Printed; and Those which He Design’d for the Press; Publishd out of the Authors Original Copies. With The Cutter of Coleman-Street, volume II, 11th edition, London: Printed for J[acob] Tonson; and sold by D. Browne [et al.], OCLC 753371909, Act II, scene vii, page 832:
- Wid[ow]. Why, Man's Life is but a Flower, Mr. Jolly, and the Flower withers, and Man withers, as Mr. Knock-down obſerv'd laſt Sabbath-day at Evening Exerciſe: But, Neighbour, you're paſt the Flower, you've grown old as well as I— / Jol[ly]. I'the very Flower; that damn'd Quack-ſalver—
- 1822, [Walter Scott], chapter III, in Peveril of the Peak. […], volume IV, Edinburgh: […] Archibald Constable and Co.; London: Hurst, Robinson, and Co., OCLC 2392685, page 63:
- "My fortune," said the Duke, "is too vast to be hurt by a petty wound; and I have, as thou knowest, a thousand salves in store for the scratches and scars which it sometimes receives in greasing my machinery." / "Your Grace does not mean Dr Wilderhead's powder of projection?" / "Pshaw! he is a quacksalver and mountebank."
- 1910, Jeffrey Farnol, “Which Describes Sundry Happenings at the Fair, and Ends this First Book”, in The Broad Highway: A Romance of Kent, new and cheaper edition, London; Edinburgh: Sampson Low, Marston & Co. Ltd., OCLC 919755165, book I, page 153:
- “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 October 2, “Town criers”, in The New York Times, page 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.
- 2012, Joseph P. Byrne, “Charlatans and Quacks”, in Encyclopedia of the Black Death, Santa Barbara, Calif.: ABC-CLIO, →ISBN, page 70, column 1:
- Charlatans and quacksalvers treated the sick and dying and peddled medicines to keep one healthy but operated under no license to do so. […] Though often tarred as frauds, their methods often differed little from those of the professionals.