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 incantation (audio) , -​shə-​nᵊl \ adjective
incantatory \ in-​ˈkan-​tə-​ˌtȯr-​ē How to pronounce incantation (audio) \ adjective

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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 The song—balena, balena, balena, balena—rose to a new pitch, a new intensity, half incantation, half ululation. Verlyn Klinkenborg, The New York Review of Books, 3 Aug. 2021 On the title track, Mr. Jaar’s low voice sounds like an incantation, or Gregorian chant. Mark Richardson, WSJ, 19 July 2021 Almost like an incantation of protection, a practice of softness. Rebekah Taussig, Time, 28 Apr. 2021 The sound of my friend’s racing bike rolling smoothly against the concrete was a healing incantation, evidence of life outside; evidence of a city thriving without all the usual bodies and vehicles to pollute it. Lindsey Tramuta, Fortune, 22 Apr. 2021 Courtesy of a tearful incantation, Raya brings back the spirit of Sisu, the majestic reptile who originally vanquished the Druun, back from the Great Beyond. David Fear, Rolling Stone, 4 Mar. 2021 Representatives from the Indigenous Hokotehi Moriori Trust and Ngāti Mutunga o Wharekauri Iwi Trust performed a karakii/karakia -- a prayer, or incantation -- to honor the spirit of the whales on Sunday, the department added. Amy Woodyatt, CNN, 25 Nov. 2020 The result is an ascetic style, well suited to both evisceration and incantation. Katy Waldman, The New Yorker, 15 Oct. 2020 So goes the most famous werewolf incantation in pop culture, a Halloween-ready warning that even the most civilized men can be overwhelmed by animalistic urges and transform into savage monsters. Christian Holub,, 13 Nov. 2020

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

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

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Last Updated

7 Aug 2021

Cite this Entry

“Incantation.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 20 Sep. 2021.

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More Definitions for incantation



English Language Learners Definition of incantation

: a series of words used to make something magic happen

More from Merriam-Webster on incantation

Nglish: Translation of incantation for Spanish Speakers Encyclopedia article about incantation


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