- a meaningless chant or expression used in conjuring or incantation.
- a juggler's trick; sleight of hand.
- trickery; deception.
- unnecessarily mysterious or elaborate activity or talk to cover up a deception, magnify a simple purpose, etc.
- to play tricks on or with.
- to perform tricks; practice trickery or deception.
Origin of hocus-pocus
SynonymsSee more synonyms on Thesaurus.com
Examples from the Web for hocus-pocus
With hocus-pocus like that no dog is lured from the stove in the real world.Erdgeist (Earth-Spirit)
They regard it fixedly as hocus-pocus, childish if not wicked.Tongues of Conscience
Robert Smythe Hichens
You at any rate are not a simpleton to be taken in by any sort of hocus-pocus.Meccania
Theres your own prestige too, and all the hocus-pocus and mummery that you know how to work on them.The Exiles of Faloo
His holiness made his hocus-pocus with the greatest devotion.Sketches of Central Asia (1868)
- trickery or chicanery
- mystifying jargon
- an incantation used by conjurors or magicians when performing tricks
- conjuring skill or practice
- to deceive or trick (someone)
Word Origin and History for hocus-pocus
1620s, Hocas Pocas, common name of a magician or juggler, a sham-Latin invocation used in tricks, probably based on a perversion of the sacramental blessing from the Mass, Hoc est corpus meum "This is my body." The first to make this speculation on its origin apparently was English prelate John Tillotson (1630-1694).
I will speak of one man ... that went about in King James his time ... who called himself, the Kings Majesties most excellent Hocus Pocus, and so was called, because that at the playing of every Trick, he used to say, Hocus pocus, tontus tabantus, vade celeriter jubeo, a dark composure of words, to blinde the eyes of the beholders, to make his Trick pass the more currantly without discovery. [Thomas Ady, "A Candle in the Dark," 1655]