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

Most of the speculation about the political impact of a recession has rightly focused on Donald Trump, who has, over the course of his presidency, clung to the roaring economy like a talisman. Alex Shephard, The New Republic, "Do Democrats Have a Plan for the Next Recession?," 16 Aug. 2019 West Ham have found some momentum and look to have a new talisman in Haller, while Norwich's good start to the season despite difficult fixtures may be faltering. SI.com, "West Ham vs Norwich City: Where to Watch, Buy Tickets, Live Stream, Kick Off Time & Team News," 29 Aug. 2019 The boy mounted the horse barefoot, with only an ill-fitting Hello Kitty helmet to protect his head and a talisman under his clothing to give him the courage of his ancestors. Adam Dean, BostonGlobe.com, "Where jockeys retire at age 10, after 5 years in the saddle," 24 Aug. 2019 The medicine man gave Dennison an arrowhead talisman and a bottle of mountain herbs to shield her from evil spirits and the perils of contact with the deceased, a regular occurrence in her line of work. Los Angeles Times, "On a vast reservation, female Navajo officers patrol with bulletproof vests and protective amulets," 13 Aug. 2019 Chanel signatures such as the camellia and sheaves of wheat (a good luck talisman) are sprinkled throughout, with gems often rendered in the fairly obscure, vaulted ogive cut. Vogue, "Chanel’s New High Jewelry Collection Is an Ode to Coco’s Liaison With Russia’s Grand Duke Dmitri Pavlovich," 27 June 2019 The bird became a legend, a talisman, a symbol of elusive liberty and hope. James Poniewozik, New York Times, "‘Orange Is the New Black’ Taught Us What Netflix Was For," 17 July 2019 More recent talismans hung on a wall next to her desk: a looped lariat, two weathered cowboy hats, a wolf photograph. Ingfei Chen, The New Yorker, "The Persuasive Power of the Wolf Lady," 29 May 2019 Working with craftswomen in Portugal, each straw tote is handmade and features a porcelain talisman that represents a powerful trait of human behavior to aid in love, happiness, and protection. Minna Shim, Harper's BAZAAR, "These Chic Bags Come with a Touch of Magic," 8 July 2017

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

15 Sep 2019

Look-up Popularity

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 from the Upper Peninsula of Michigan

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