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

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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


amulet, charm, fetish (also fetich), mascot, mojo, periapt, phylactery


hoodoo, jinx

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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

Each lipstick comes in a gold, refillable case that feels like a bar of gold and looks like a fancy weapon or perhaps a talisman of some sort. Sable Yong, Allure, "Bond No. 9's Neutrals Collection Are the Fanciest Nude Lipsticks I’ve Ever Used," 8 May 2019 James Rodriguez is Colombia's talisman and almost carries his country at times. SI.com, "7 of the Coolest Stars to Keep An Eye On During the World Cup," 20 June 2018 Los Cafeteros talisman James Rodríguez then came off with what appeared to be a calf injury, and was visibly upset as he was forced to limp off the field. SI.com, "Senegal 0-1 Colombia: Lethal Los Cafeteros Edge Into Last 16 as Cissé's Side Crash Out on Fair Play," 28 June 2018 The €42m deal proved to be a bargain for the Reds as Liverpool found themselves a new talisman to help alleviate the departure of Coutinho later in the year. SI.com, "Liverpool Could Revive Interest in German Star After Opting for Mohamed Salah Instead Last Summer," 1 July 2018 For instance, Ruth uses chess pieces scattered about the house to anchor her in reality, a detail inspired by Shaw and his sister going through their mother's belongings and recognizing the talisman-like nature of a loved one's personal effects. Jennifer Ouellette, Ars Technica, "TV Technica 2018: Our favorite shows and binges," 24 Dec. 2018 Fred Trump’s money, for example, helped build Trump Tower, the talisman of privilege that established his son as a major player in New York. Susanne Craig, The Seattle Times, "Trump engaged in suspect tax schemes as he reaped riches from father," 2 Oct. 2018 Crystal Palace talisman Wilfried Zaha has reportedly turned down a new £125,000-a-week contract at Selhurst Park as clubs around Europe monitor the situation. SI.com, "Crystal Palace Star Rejects Lucrative New Contract Offer With Host of Clubs Monitoring Situation," 7 July 2018 For me, as a formerly undocumented young woman and the daughter of undocumented immigrants, makeup has become a talisman—an attempt to ward off evil. Karla Cornejo Villavicencio, Glamour, "I'm an Immigrant. When I Spend Money on Makeup, I'm Paying to Feel Safe.," 17 Dec. 2018

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.

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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

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Statistics for talisman

Last Updated

12 May 2019

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Time Traveler for talisman

The first known use of talisman was in 1638

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More Definitions for talisman



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

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More from Merriam-Webster on talisman

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for talisman

Spanish Central: Translation of talisman

Nglish: Translation of talisman for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of talisman for Arabic Speakers

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).


one that collects or salvages junk

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