Definitions

from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

  • n. A hawker of quack medicines who attracts customers with stories, jokes, or tricks.
  • n. A flamboyant charlatan.
  • intransitive v. To act as a mountebank.
  • transitive v. Archaic To ensnare or prevail over with trickery.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • n. One who sells dubious medicines.
  • n. One who sells by deception; a con artist; a charlatan.
  • v. To act as a mountebank.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • n. One who mounts a bench or stage in the market or other public place, boasts of his skill in curing diseases, and vends medicines which he pretends are infallible remedies; a quack doctor.
  • n. Any boastful or false pretender; a charlatan; a quack.
  • intransitive v. To play the mountebank.
  • transitive v. To cheat by boasting and false pretenses; to gull.

from The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia

  • n. A peripatetic quack; one who prescribes and sells nostrums at fairs and similar gatherings.
  • n. Hence Any impudent and unscrupulous pretender; a charlatan.
  • n. The short-tailed African kite, Helotarsus ecaudatus: so called from its aërial tumbling.
  • Pertaining to or consisting of mountebanks; sham; quack: as, a mountebank doctor.
  • Produced by quackery or jugglery.
  • To cheat by unscrupulous and impudent arts; gull.
  • To introduce or insinuate by delusive arts or pretensions.
  • To play the mountebank: with indefinite it.

from WordNet 3.0 Copyright 2006 by Princeton University. All rights reserved.

  • n. a flamboyant deceiver; one who attracts customers with tricks or jokes

Etymologies

Italian montambanco, from the phrase monta im banco, one gets up onto the bench : monta, one gets up, third person sing. present tense of montare, to get up (from Vulgar Latin *montāre; see mount1) + in, on, onto (from Latin; see in-2) + banco, bench (variant of banca, from Old Italian, bench, table, from Old High German bank).
(American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition)
From Italian montambanco ("quack who mounts a bench to hawk his wares") contracted from Italian monta-in-banco ("mount on bench"). (Wiktionary)

Examples

  • In those days, pundit would have more likely been a synonym for 'mountebank', a delicious word, which has disappeared from usage.

    Journalmalists and the Hemingway Panic

  • He spoke the word "mountebank" sneeringly, and John flushed.

    John of the Woods

  • He went instantly to the prison, descended to the cell of the "mountebank," called him by name, took him by the hand, and spoke to him.

    Les Miserables, Volume I, Fantine

  • Ivan, for it was he who started the "mountebank" bear, that came near mounting him on the moment of their meeting it.

    Bruin The Grand Bear Hunt

  • "mountebank," as he named the man who had put his nose out of joint.

    Beverly of Graustark

  • "mountebank" performance as they called it, -- had been everything to them that was sacred in its devout simplicity.

    The Treasure of Heaven A Romance of Riches

  • "mountebank," called him by name, took him by the hand, and spoke to him.

    Les Misérables

  • One can then be any kind of mountebank or robber, and yet rest assured of the ladies 'homage. "

    The Sins of Séverac Bablon

  • In the late sixteenth century, English borrowed this word, now spelled mountebank, to refer to those roaming charlatans who would step onto a box or bench to attract the attention of potential buyers of such dubious offerings as “snake oil” medicine.1

    The English Is Coming!

  • The moment when we discover whether Mr. David Cameron is a politician of genuine principle and valour or simply a gutless mountebank may be fast approaching.

    Do Something Popular, Mr. Cameron!

Wordnik is becoming a not-for-profit! Read our announcement here.

Comments

Log in or sign up to get involved in the conversation. It's quick and easy.

  • There was an early silent comedian called Monty Banks.

    January 29, 2010

  • "CORIOLANUS: Pray, be content:
    Mother, I am going to the market-place;
    Chide me no more. I'll mountebank their loves,
    Cog their hearts from them, and come home belov'd
    Of all the trades in Rome."
    - William Shakespeare, 'The Tragedy of Coriolanus'.

    August 28, 2009

  • Sweeney Todd: "And furthermore, "Signor", I have serviced no kings, yet I wager that I can shave a cheek with ten times more dexterity than any street mountebank."

    August 4, 2008

  • See also mountie bank.

    January 23, 2008

  • I have to say, that is my favorite SNL moment of all time.

    January 23, 2008

  • Alex Trebek: That's beautiful. And finally, Sean Connery's also here let's move on to Double Jeopardy where the categories -

    Sean Connery: Not so fast Trebek.

    Alex Trebek: I really thought that was going to work.

    Sean Connery: Well, you were wrong, you mountebank. I pose a conundrum to ya, I riddle if you will

    Alex Trebek: I don't want to hear it.

    Sean Connery: What's the difference between you and a mallard with a cold? One's a sick duck and I can't remember how it ends, but your mother's a whore. Laughs

    January 23, 2008


  • charlatan

    "A flamboyant deceiver; one who attracts customers with tricks or jokes"

    A mountebank practices unsubstantiated medicine as an alchemist practices unsubstantiated science

    August 13, 2007

  • I found it on P18 of William Bonner's and Addison Wiggin's "Financial Reckoning Day":

    A certain level of madness is often an advantage in the business and entertainment world, but this was too extreme for that. Purging the planet of ignorance? Only a buffoon or mountebank would say such a foolish thing. Saylor was clearly one or the other--maybe both.

    May 11, 2007