Definitions

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

  • n. Archaic A quack or charlatan.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • n. One falsely claiming to possess medical or other skills, especially one who dispenses potions, ointments, etc. supposedly having curative powers.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • n. One who boasts of his skill in medicines and salves, or of the efficacy of his prescriptions; a charlatan; a quack; a mountebank.

from The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia

  • n. One who boasts of his skill in medicines and salves, or of the efficacy of his nostrums; a charlatan; a quack.

Etymologies

Obsolete Dutch : Middle Dutch quac-, unguent, or quacken, to quack, boast + Middle Dutch salven, to salve.
(American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition)
c 1570, from Dutch kwakzalver ("hawker of salve"), from Middle Dutch quacken ("to brag, boast; to croak") (Wiktionary)

Examples

  • The quacksalver was at first one who made, sold, or applied ointments or oils.

    Samuel Johnson on Quackery

  • I have done ill to unbosom myself so far to this poisonous quacksalver.

    The Fair Maid of Perth

  • I have only to add that the union of the poisoner, the quacksalver, the alchemist, and the astrologer in the same person was familiar to the pretenders to the mystic sciences.

    Kenilworth

  • “In other words,” said Tressilian, “he was a quacksalver and common cheat; but what has all this to do with my nag, and the shoe which he has lost?”

    Kenilworth

  • "Well, then, I am giving you an order: where is your quacksalver?"

    Hard to be a god

  • Æsculapius himself was a mere quacksalver compared to Squire Richards, whose twenty-five negroes were rapidly multiplied into a hundred; while my poor neglected plantation was, between brothers, well worth five hundred thousand dollars.

    Blackwood's Edinburgh Magazine, Volume 56, Number 347, September, 1844

  • It will be remembered that Colonel SIBTHORP (that dull mountebank) spoke learnedly upon glanders -- that others declared the animal needed a lighter burthen and a greater allowance of corn, -- but that the majority of the mob made way for a certain quacksalver PEEL, who being regularly called in and fee'd for his advice, professed himself to be possessed of some miraculous elixir for the suffering quadruped.

    Punch, or the London Charivari, Volume 1, September 25, 1841

  • When the stage is raised on the theatre for Volpone, who is disguised as a quacksalver, Sir Politick wishes to enlighten Peregrine as to the fellows that 'mount the bank.'

    Shakspere and Montaigne

  • Only uttering a heartfelt wish that this quacksalver would take himself off.

    The Wild Duck

  • Am I not yclept quacksalver by those that come not near me, and wizard by those I heal?

    The Cloister and the Hearth

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