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2017 Word of the Year

hocus-pocus

[hoh-kuh s-poh-kuh s] /ˈhoʊ kəsˈpoʊ kəs/
noun
1.
a meaningless chant or expression used in conjuring or incantation.
2.
a juggler's trick; sleight of hand.
3.
trickery; deception.
4.
unnecessarily mysterious or elaborate activity or talk to cover up a deception, magnify a simple purpose, etc.
verb (used with object), hocus-pocused, hocus-pocusing or (especially British) hocus-pocussed, hocus-pocussing.
5.
to play tricks on or with.
verb (used without object), hocus-pocused, hocus-pocusing or (especially British) hocus-pocussed, hocus-pocussing.
6.
to perform tricks; practice trickery or deception.
Origin of hocus-pocus
1615-1625
First recorded in 1615-25; pseudo-Latin rhyming formula used by jugglers and magicians
Synonyms
3. deceit, dishonesty, hanky-panky, double-dealing.
Dictionary.com Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2017.
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Examples from the Web for hocus-pocus
Historical Examples
  • With hocus-pocus like that no dog is lured from the stove in the real world.

    Erdgeist (Earth-Spirit) Frank Wedekind
  • 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 Owen Gregory
  • Theres your own prestige too, and all the hocus-pocus and mummery that you know how to work on them.

    The Exiles of Faloo Barry Pain
  • His holiness made his hocus-pocus with the greatest devotion.

  • Why seek to limit the duration of hell by some hocus-pocus of interpretation?

    Flowers of Freethought George W. Foote
  • What good does he suppose all this hocus-pocus is going to do us?

  • I defy any man to look between the lines and scent my hocus-pocus game.

    The Long Chance Peter B. Kyne
  • I did so, and he began to perform all sorts of hocus-pocus over me.

  • One more cabalistic performance and the hocus-pocus was ended.

    The Witches of New York Q. K. Philander Doesticks
British Dictionary definitions for hocus-pocus

hocus-pocus

/ˈhəʊkəsˈpəʊkəs/
noun
1.
trickery or chicanery
2.
mystifying jargon
3.
an incantation used by conjurors or magicians when performing tricks
4.
conjuring skill or practice
verb -cuses, -cusing, -cused, -cuses, -cussing, -cussed
5.
to deceive or trick (someone)
Word Origin
C17: perhaps a dog-Latin formation invented by jugglers
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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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]

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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Slang definitions & phrases for hocus-pocus

hocus-pocus

noun

Sleight-of-hand; trickery; monkey business

[1694+; originally a term for a juggler, and probably derived fr a juggler's spoken formula imitating the Church Latin phrase hoc est corpus, ''this is the body'']

The Dictionary of American Slang, Fourth Edition by Barbara Ann Kipfer, PhD. and Robert L. Chapman, Ph.D.
Copyright (C) 2007 by HarperCollins Publishers.
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