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Charlatan is a pejorative word which accuses a person of the practice of quackery or some similar confidence trick in order to obtain money by false pretenses.

The word comes from French charlatan, and ultimately from either the Italian ciarlare, to prattle; or from Cerretano, a resident of Cerreto, a town that was apparently notorious for producing quacks.

In usage, a subtle difference is drawn between the charlatan and other kinds of confidence people. The charlatan is usually a salesperson. He does not try to create a personal relationship with his marks, or set up an elaborate hoax using roleplaying. Rather, the person called a charlatan is being accused of resorting to quackery, pseudoscience, or some knowingly employed bogus means of impressing people in order to swindle his victims by selling them worthless nostrums and similar goods or services that will not deliver on the promises made for them. The word calls forth the image of an old time medicine show operator, who has long left town by the time the people who bought his snake oil tonic realize that it does not perform as advertised.

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