A quack doctor, or medicaster, hawking remedies on the streets of London, an engraving by Edward Linley Sambourne from Punch (11 November 1893)

From French médicastre or Italian medicastro, from Late Latin medicaster, from Latin medicus (a doctor, a physician; a surgeon) + -aster (suffix forming nouns expressing incomplete resemblance, which are thus usually pejorative).



medicaster (plural medicasters)

  1. (dated, now chiefly literary) A quack doctor; someone who pretends to have medical knowledge.
    • 1751, Giovanni Bianchi, A Dissertation against Blisters, Delivered in a Speech, before the Lyncean Academy at Rimino, in June 1746, London: Printed by M. Cooper, at the Globe in Paternoster-Row, M. Sheepy, under the Royal Exchange Cornhill; and J. Swan, opposite to Northumberland-House by Charing-Cross, OCLC 915390042, page 40:
      But these innovating Medicaſters have introduced a Practice not only very precarious, but in many Reſpects extremely dangerous, and quite devoid of any one of the Qualities which conſtitute a good Remedy, viz. to cure the Patient, as the Axiom has it, cito, tuto, & jucunde, i.e. ſpeedily, ſafely, and pleaſantly.
    • 1853 October, J. B. Cayol, “Art. I. Memoir upon Typhoid Fever and Typhoidism. By J. B. Cayol, formerly Professor of Clinical Medicine to the Faculty of Paris; Member of Many Learned Socieities at Home and Abroad, etc. (Translated from the Revue Médicale.)”, in Drs. Otis and McCaw, editors, The Virginia Medical and Surgical Journal, volume II, Richmond, Va.: Printed by Colin & Nowlan, OCLC 654422017, page 3:
      The most idiotic medicaster, when he had named, or, as they term it, diagnosticated a typhoid fever, found himself upon a level with the medical celebrities of the epoch. [] If the patient died, that was perfectly simple: he had a typhoid fever to which he was inevitably doomed to succumb! If he recovered, what a noble triumph for the medicaster, even when he had perhaps arbitrarily imposed the name of typhoid upon a simple and benignant fever, as is constantly done!
    • 1866, R[obert] Nelson, “Treatment”, in Asiatic Cholera: Its Origin and Spread in Asia, Africa, and Europe, Introduction into America through Canada; Remote and Proximate Causes, Symptoms and Pathology, and the Various Modes of Treatment Analyzed, New York, N.Y.: William A. Townsend, publisher, 434 Broome Street, OCLC 837146603, page 188:
      [I]t [opium] is a double-edged sword, a divine gift in the hands of a master, a poison in those of a mere routinist—a medicaster—a demi-physician.
    • 1989, Roy Porter, “Preface”, in Health for Sale: Quackery in England 1660–1850, Manchester; New York, N.Y.: Manchester University Press, →ISBN, page vi:
      [I]f pushed, I would judge that many of those ‘medicasters’ and ‘charlatans’ commonly arraigned as tricksters were less cheats than zealots: if we are to speak of delusion, it is primarily self-delusion [].