I am looking for a word to describe people that proclaim that they possess healing powers or know remedies to cure incurable conditions or even to poses spiritual powers. A general term would be a charlatan but I want something specific. Something like the word alchemist compared to a chemist. Few words, I can think of are fake shaman, fake healers, plastic shaman, voodoo priest.

  • 6
    Quack, fraud, charlatan, snake-oil salesman.
    – Dan Bron
    Dec 20, 2016 at 0:13
  • Bogus Doctor, Bogus healer Dec 20, 2016 at 0:19
  • 1
    The term mountebank primarily signifies a hawker of quack medicines. It is a bit old-fashioned sounding, though. Dec 20, 2016 at 1:49
  • How about Scientologist, as they as a group have had a history of claiming to be able to cure cancer, among other things :P Dec 20, 2016 at 3:50

2 Answers 2


If you are talking medicine (including pseudo-scientific medicine) then you want either quack or snake-oil salesman.

Quack (MW, noun definitions 1 & 2)


a pretender to medical skill

Snake-oil (MW)

any of various substances or mixtures sold (as by a traveling medicine show) as medicine usually without regard to their medical worth or properties

Snake-oil salesman (Cambridge)

someone who deceives people in order to get money from them

  • 7
    As a Brit, I wouldn't necessarily associate "Snake-oil salesman" with medicine/healing. That seems to be borne out by the different definitions in MW & Cambridge dictionaries. "Quack" would be my preferred choice.
    – TrevorD
    Dec 20, 2016 at 0:31
  • I agree with TrevorD: it should be Quack, and not Snake-oil salesman. A snake-oil salesman is primarily a salesman, not a doctor. Doctors (and quacks) do a lot more than just prescribe medicine.
    – AndyT
    Dec 20, 2016 at 12:06

"Quack" is the most common term I know of. Occasionally, it can be used as a derogatory term for any medical doctor

If you want something a bit more verbose/proper, use the original term "Quacksalver"

From Wiktionary:

c 1570, from Dutch kwakzalver ‎(“hawker of salve”), from Middle Dutch quacken ‎(“to brag, boast; to croak”)

i.e. Someone who boasts about the potency of their remedies, but is in fact a fraud.

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