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[moun-tuh-bangk] /ˈmaʊn təˌbæŋk/
a person who sells quack medicines, as from a platform in public places, attracting and influencing an audience by tricks, storytelling, etc.
any charlatan or quack.
verb (used without object)
to act or operate as a mountebank.
Origin of mountebank
1570-80; (< Middle French) < Italian montimbanco one who climbs on a bench, equivalent to mont(are) to climb (see mount1) + -im-, variant of in on + banco bench (see bank2)
Related forms
[moun-tuh-bangk-uh-ree] /ˈmaʊn təˌbæŋk ə ri/ (Show IPA),
1. pitchman. 2. phony, pretender, fraud. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2015.
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Examples from the Web for mountebank
Historical Examples
  • There was a mountebank conjurer seated on a table, performing all sorts of wonders before a gaping crowd.

    John Deane of Nottingham W.H.G. Kingston
  • But his natural gift was to be a mountebank, a clown, a circus Hercules.

  • The one saw a mountebank and impostor—the other recognised a profound artist and an inspired prophet.

    Ernest Maltravers, Complete Edward Bulwer-Lytton
  • It was not of the least use to me that I knew he was not the illustrious general, but simply a mountebank.

    A Day's Ride Charles James Lever
  • I feared the woman had no better thought than to make a mountebank of her child!

    The Scarlet Letter Nathaniel Hawthorne
  • If I were a mountebank or a charlatan I would claim that it cures a hundred diseases.

    The Gypsies Charles G. Leland
  • He seemed a youthful Magian, and almost a mountebank together.

    Pierre; or The Ambiguities Herman Melville
  • You must often have had your head against this mountebank jacket of mine.

    The Belovd Vagabond William J. Locke
  • A little while since a mountebank pair called at St. Aliquis.

    Life on a Mediaeval Barony William Stearns Davis
  • "So this going about as a mountebank is only a masquerade," she said, with a touch of scorn.

    The Belovd Vagabond William J. Locke
British Dictionary definitions for mountebank


(formerly) a person who sold quack medicines in public places
a charlatan; fake
(intransitive) to play the mountebank
Derived Forms
mountebankery, noun
Word Origin
C16: from Italian montambanco a climber on a bench, from montare to mount² + bancobench (see also bank1)
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for mountebank

"a doctor that mounts a bench in the market, and boasts his infallible remedies and cures" [Johnson], 1570s, from Italian montambanco, contraction of monta in banco "quack, juggler," literally "mount on bench" (to be seen by crowd), from monta, imperative of montare "to mount" (see mount (v.)) + banco, variant of banca "bench" (see bank (n.2)). Figurative and extended senses from 1580s.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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