tal·​is·​man | \ ˈta-ləs-mən How to pronounce talisman (audio) , -ləz- \
plural talismans

Definition of talisman

1 : an object held to act as a charm to avert evil and bring good fortune
2 : something producing apparently magical or miraculous effects

Keep scrolling for more

Other Words from talisman

talismanic \ ˌta-​ləs-​ˈma-​nik How to pronounce talismanic (audio) , -​ləz-​ \ adjective
talismanically \ ˌta-​ləs-​ˈma-​ni-​k(ə-​)lē How to pronounce talismanically (audio) , -​ləz-​ \ adverb

Synonyms & Antonyms for talisman



Visit the Thesaurus for More 

Did You Know?

Do you believe in lucky charms? Language reflects the fact that many people do. We might have borrowed talisman from French, Spanish, or Italian; all three include similar-looking words for a lucky charm. Those three terms derive from a single Arabic word for a charm, tilsam. Tilsam in turn can be traced to the ancient Greek verb telein, which means "to initiate into the mysteries." While the word talisman, in its strictest use, refers to an object, even a human being can be considered a talisman—such as a player on a team whose mere presence somehow causes magical things to happen.

Examples of talisman in a Sentence

a pendant of white nephrite jade is often worn by Indians as a talisman to ward off heart disease
Recent Examples on the Web In a particularly odd nod to superstition, the Queen sewed flannel belts for the poor, promising that these useless talismans would provide immunity. Maurice Samuels, Time, "Conspiracy Theories, Class Tension, Political Intrigue: Lessons From France’s Mishandling of a 19th Century Cholera Outbreak," 15 May 2020 Productivity can serve as a talisman, or a coping mechanism. Agnes Callard, The New Yorker, "What Do the Humanities Do In a Crisis?," 11 Apr. 2020 Most of the objects are talismans of a lost homeland; a few, such as a Swedish-Estonian dictionary, were picked up along the journey. Mark Jenkins, Washington Post, "In the galleries: Artists make use of Asian iconography via paper and sculpture," 31 Jan. 2020 Over the course of two decades and five NBA championships with the Lakers, Bryant turned himself into a talisman for the city, someone who radiated star appeal and relentless competitive spirit and chose to stay in Los Angeles for his whole career. Ben Cohen, WSJ, "Kobe Bryant Gets a Last Farewell on His Home Court," 24 Feb. 2020 Animals have long been preserved as hunting trophies, as objects of scientific research, or as personal talismans. Aj Willingham, CNN, "We taxidermied a rat. All it takes is a little imagination ... and a lot of Borax," 8 Feb. 2020 The explosion in popularity—and the cultural significance—of AR-15s as a civic talisman is also a symptom of a more malignant pro-gun segment of the conservative movement. Adam Weinstein, The New Republic, "Should Las Vegas’s machine-gun rental industry be the future liberals want for assault weapons?," 20 Apr. 2020 Stanley became a beloved member of the team, the Jags’ version of a talisman. Josh Bean | Jbean@al.com, al, "The story behind Spain Park coach Mike Chase’s unique motivational tactic," 4 Mar. 2020 The likes of Christian Eriksen, Toby Alderweireld and Jan Vertonghen have all been tipped to leave, whilst a recent report has even suggested that Spurs are fearful of losing talisman Harry Kane. SI.com, "Son Heung-min's Agent Suggests Forward Would Be Open to Shock Move to SSC Napoli," 4 Oct. 2019

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'talisman.' 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 talisman

1638, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for talisman

French talisman or Spanish talismán or Italian talismano; all from Arabic ṭilsam, from Middle Greek telesma, from Greek, consecration, from telein to initiate into the mysteries, complete, from telos end — more at telos

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about talisman

Time Traveler for talisman

Time Traveler

The first known use of talisman was in 1638

See more words from the same year

Listen to Our Podcast about talisman

Statistics for talisman

Last Updated

25 May 2020

Cite this Entry

“Talisman.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/talisman. Accessed 12 Jul. 2020.

Keep scrolling for more

More Definitions for talisman


How to pronounce talisman (audio)

English Language Learners Definition of talisman

: an object (such as a ring or stone) that is believed to have magic powers and to cause good things to happen to the person who has it


tal·​is·​man | \ ˈta-lə-smən How to pronounce talisman (audio) \
plural talismans

Kids Definition of talisman

: a ring or stone carved with symbols and believed to have magical powers : charm

Keep scrolling for more

Comments on talisman

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


See Definitions and Examples »

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

Words for Summer: A Quiz

  • a closeup of a sunflower
  • Which of the following words means “of or relating to summer”?
Spell It

Can you spell these 10 commonly misspelled words?

Syn City

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!