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

Keep scrolling for more

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 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 Each one formed a part of her daily incantation to be present and open to all that came her way, however difficult. Los Angeles Times, "Column: When cancer closed in, a photographer turned to Los Angeles to help see her through," 26 Aug. 2019 The communal benefits of music have been valued for centuries, from Egyptian incantations to Greek flutes and lyres to Chinese bells and wind chimes, Indigenous Australian didgeridoos, African drums, and Native American rattles. Jennifer Emerling, National Geographic, "Seeking silence on a California road trip," 6 Aug. 2019 Nonwhite American citizens will not be spirited out of the country by tweet or by incantation. Osita Nwanevu, The New Yorker, "Conservative Nationalism Is Trumpism for Intellectuals," 21 July 2019 Over this establishing shot a girl is heard whispering a strange incantation. Maria Garcia,, "Review: Zombies are the threat in the dark fairy tale ‘Endzeit — Ever After’," 25 June 2019 Some versions of the books are in ancient Yoruban language, others in English and Spanish, with incantations and instructions written throughout. Sarah Betancourt, Longreads, "The Religion No One Talks About: My Search For Answers in an Old Caribbean Faith," 30 Mar. 2018 In its lighter, fluffier incantation, it’s cooked in a 2:1 ratio of liquid to millet. Ashleigh Spitza, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "Millet, the underdog of grains, packs a punch of nutrients," 11 Apr. 2018

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.

See More

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

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about incantation

Time Traveler for incantation

Time Traveler

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

See more words from the same century

Statistics for incantation

Last Updated

11 Nov 2019

Cite this Entry

“Incantation.” The Dictionary, Merriam-Webster Inc., Accessed 22 November 2019.

Keep scrolling for more

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

Keep scrolling for more

Comments on incantation

What made you want to look up incantation? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


not agreeing with established beliefs

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

Name that Food Quiz

Spell It

Can you spell these 10 commonly misspelled words?

Bee Cubed

Test Your Knowledge - and learn some interesting things along the way.

Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!