in·​can·​ta·​tion ˌin-ˌkan-ˈtā-shən How to pronounce incantation (audio)
: 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
incantational adjective
incantatory 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 Neuroscientists have charted the mind’s incantation of words that lights up the temporal lobe, the frontal lobe, ridges in the cerebral cortex, triggering impulses that transform squiggles of ink into letters, letters to words, words to sentences and meaning and comprehension and empathy. Thomas Curwen, Los Angeles Times, 29 May 2024 By the final repetition, the decree had morphed into something spooky and Seussian, something in between incantation and nursery rhyme. Emily Harnett, Harper's Magazine, 26 Apr. 2024 Natalia calls on ancestral magic to coax Diego away from Sylvia with incantations that unexpectedly awaken something deep within her rather than imploding the new couple’s budding romance. Holly Jones, Variety, 9 May 2024 Without Hermione's brains, Harry would never know which herb or incantation to use. Ew Staff Updated,, 6 Mar. 2024 What sounded like an incantation was a catalogue of desirable mutations. Rebecca Giggs, The New Yorker, 19 Feb. 2024 Such physical rituals—incantations manifesting thought, body, and tool—bring forth the artifice of intellect. TIME, 8 Feb. 2024 And has continued to be, even since her last incantation, which was 1999. Kevin Purdy, Ars Technica, 31 May 2023 Hauge-Zavaleta has a litany beyond breath work and incantations: place one hand on your heart, tap a finger on your collarbone, splash cold water on your face, call a friend. Jessica Winter, The New Yorker, 25 Jan. 2024

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'incantation.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History


Middle English incantacioun, from Middle French incantation, from Late Latin incantation-, incantatio, from Latin incantare to enchant — more at enchant

First Known Use

14th century, in the meaning defined above

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

Dictionary Entries Near incantation

Cite this Entry

“Incantation.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 14 Jun. 2024.

Kids Definition


in·​can·​ta·​tion ˌin-ˌkan-ˈtā-shən How to pronounce incantation (audio)
: a series of words used to produce a magic spell

More from Merriam-Webster on incantation

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