in·​can·​ta·​tion | \ ˌin-ˌkan-ˈtā-shən How to pronounce incantation (audio) \

Definition of incantation

: a use of spells or verbal charms spoken or sung as a part of a ritual of magic also : a written or recited formula of words designed to produce a particular effect

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Other Words from incantation

incantational \ ˌin-​ˌkan-​ˈtā-​shnəl How to pronounce incantational (audio) , -​shə-​nᵊl \ adjective
incantatory \ in-​ˈkan-​tə-​ˌtȯr-​ē How to pronounce incantatory (audio) \ adjective

Did You Know?

Incantation comes directly from the Latin word incantare, "enchant". Incantare itself has cantare as a root, which reminds us that magic and ritual have always been associated with chanting and music. Incantations have often been in strange languages; "Abracadabra" is a not-so-serious version of an incantation.

Examples of incantation in a Sentence

trying to produce a miracle by incantation hovering over the sick child, the witch doctor muttered mysterious incantations
Recent Examples on the Web Cabin visitors fight protean spirits of the dead with a chainsaw, a shotgun and Egyptian incantations. Los Angeles Times, "Movies on TV for Oct. 6-12: ‘Throne of Blood’ and more," 4 Oct. 2019 And in a time when everything feels so abundantly out of control, there’s comfort in measuring out ingredients one by one, reciting recipes like incantations, leaning into the calming monotony of cooking. Hilary Cadigan, Bon Appétit, "There's No Better Time to… Follow a Recipe Without Making Shortcuts," 1 Apr. 2020 The incantation was excessive—annoying to say and to hear, especially at the volume the type size suggested—which was exactly the point. Ian Bogost, The Atlantic, "The Bard of Bedtime," 8 Oct. 2019 Luckily, the companion text came with specific instructions on these incantations. Katherine J. Wu, Smithsonian Magazine, "4,000-Year-Old Guide to the Ancient Egyptian Underworld May Be Oldest Illustrated ‘Book’," 1 Jan. 2020 Holguin-Hernandez says his arguments for a shorter sentence are an obvious objection to the longer one imposed by the judge, and that no formal incantation is required to challenge the reasonableness of the punishment. Ephrat Livni, Quartz, "The US is siding with criminal defendants in a rare Supreme Court case," 10 Dec. 2019 Here, beanbags are scattered and sky-blue panels bear a poem opposite a long window engraved with a Babel-like incantation, showing the words peace is power in 24 languages. Eve Macsweeney, Vogue, "Will MoMA’s New Commissions Make the Museum Modern Again?," 7 Oct. 2019 The objects are prerequisites for a binding spell, an incantation typically used to keep someone from harming themselves or others, like a magical strait jacket. Wired, "Trump's Presidency Has Spawned a New Generation of Witches," 30 Oct. 2019 There was no incantation to magically infuse the historical text with a pulse. Richard Brady, National Review, "Valley of the Shadow," 31 Aug. 2019

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'incantation.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

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First Known Use of incantation

14th century, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for incantation

Middle English incantacioun, from Middle French incantation, from Late Latin incantation-, incantatio, from Latin incantare to enchant — more at enchant

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Time Traveler for incantation

Time Traveler

The first known use of incantation was in the 14th century

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Cite this Entry

“Incantation.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 18 Sep. 2020.

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More Definitions for incantation


How to pronounce incantation (audio)

English Language Learners Definition of incantation

: a series of words used to make something magic happen

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