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Charlatan is an interesting word with an origin that dates back to the early 1600s. We will examine the definition of the word charlatan, where it came from and some examples of its use in sentences.

A charlatan is a con artist, someone who pretends to have a special ability or knowledge, someone who is an imposter or a huckster. The term charlatan is derived from a term for a seventeenth century peddler of potions and dubious medical cures, what came to be known as a snake oil salesman in the 1800s in the United States. The word charlatan is probably derived from the French word charlatan, a word used to mean someone who sold medicines, usually with an accompanying musical show or play. The French word charlatan was in turn derived from the Italian word ciarlatano which means a quack or con artist. The plural of charlatan is charlatans.


The orange people were followers of a guru-come-charlatan called Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh, dispatched to the US from India to build a utopian community on a piece of land the size of Manhattan they’d somehow managed to buy. (The New Statesman)

FAUST WAS a scholar and a charlatan, a well-to-do man who was not satisfied with what he had, so to access unlimited knowledge and the pleasures of the world, he made a deal with the Devil. (The Trinidad and Tobago Newsday)

Booker’s posturing was totally unrelated to the duties of Secretary of State and more proof of what a charlatan Booker truly is. (The Milton Daily Standard)

A whistleblower was yesterday branded a ‘charlatan’ and accused of speaking out to pursue a vendetta against Brexit campaigners. (The Daily Mail)