Word of the Day Archive
Monday October 30, 2000
mountebank \MOUN-tuh-bank\ , noun:
1. A peddler of quack medicine, who stands on a platform to appeal to the audience.
2. A charlatan; a boastful pretender to knowledge or a skill.
The man whom Mr. Masson had described as his father's guru is finally regarded by the alert, knowing, newly skeptical son as "a phony, a charlatan, a mountebank, an impostor, a quack."
-- Robert Coles, "His First Fallen Idol", New York Times, February 7, 1993
Nevertheless, in William Avery Rockefeller one clearly detects the blarney and easy conviviality of the mountebank.
-- Ron Chernow, Titan: The Life of John D. Rockefeller, Sr.
To his critics including some of the other topnotchers in the school of Paris, he is a talented mountebank and irrepressible showman who has lured his followers and the world up a blind artistic and intellectual alley.
-- "Captain Picasso's Voyages", Time, June 26, 1950
Yet to make such judgments on any question rather than trying to examine the question properly, to discover what the full answers might be, is coercive philistinism: it is to allow the mountebank to triumph over the critic, the mob orator to drown the doubts of the sceptic.
-- Kevin Myers, "An Irishman's Diary", Irish Times, November 12, 1999
Mountebank comes from the Italian montambanco, montimbanco, from the phrase monta in banco, literally "mounts on bench" (i.e. "gets up on a bench").