Student Dictionary

One entry found for charlatan.
Main Entry: char·la·tan
Pronunciation: primarystressshär-lschwa-tschwan
Function: noun
Etymology: from Italian ciarlatano "charlatan," an altered form of cerretano (same meaning), literally, "inhabitant of Cerreto (village in Italy)"
: a person who pretends to have knowledge or ability
Word History In the early 16th century people claiming medical skills they did not really have wandered throughout Italy. They sold medicines of little or no value. Because many of these fakers came from a village called Cerreto, the name cerretano, meaning "inhabitant of Cerreto," became a general name for a medical faker. Such people always had a line of talk to help them sell their products. Through the influence of the Italian word ciarlare, meaning "to chatter," the word cerretano, when used to refer to these fakers, became ciarlatano. It is from this word that we get our English charlatan.

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