'Barmecide, n.: the patronymic of a family of princes ruling at Bagdad just before Haroun-al-Raschid, concerning one of whom the story is told in the Arabian Nights, that he put a succession of empty dishes before a beggar, pretending that they contained a sumptuous repast—a fiction which the beggar humorously accepted.
One who offers imaginary food or illusory benefits. Often attrib.
1713 J. Addison in Guardian 16 Sept. 2/1 The Barmecide was sitting at his Table that seemed ready covered for an Entertainment.
1842 Dickens Amer. Notes I. viii. 282 It is a Barmecide Feast; a pleasant field for the imagination to rove in.
1855 Thackeray Newcomes II. x. 103 My dear Barmecide friend.
1863 Reader II. 506 Sharing the boundless hospitality of a Barmecide.'