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toad +‎ eater, said to allude to an old alleged practice among mountebanks, who would hire a boy to eat (or pretend to eat) toads, which many had considered poisonous. The toadeater (or "toady") would writhe in pain, until the quack gave him some "medicine", and then try to impress upon the crowd that the boy was cured. Compare toady.


toadeater (plural toadeaters)

  1. A fawning, obsequious parasite; a mean sycophant or flatterer.
    • 1781, V. Knox, Winter Evenings or Lucubrations, "On Associating with Equals for the True Pleasure of Friendship".
      A toad eater, a led captain, an humble companion, are appellations which no man, who has a real sense of honour, would chuse to possess; but these are the best names bestowed upon men who spend their lives in courting the great by all arts, but those of virtue and truth.
    • 1819, J. Wilson, Complete Dictionary of Astrology "Horary Questions", Of Theft.
      a chaplain, tutor, toadeater, or some superior servant
    • 1843-44 Charles Dickens, Martin Chuzzlewit (chapter 24)
      You're too zealous a toadeater, and betray yourself.

Part or all of this entry has been imported from the 1913 edition of Webster’s Dictionary, which is now free of copyright and hence in the public domain. The imported definitions may be significantly out of date, and any more recent senses may be completely missing.
(See the entry for toadeater in
Webster’s Revised Unabridged Dictionary, G. & C. Merriam, 1913.)