See more synonyms for hocus-pocus on Thesaurus.com
  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), ho·cus-po·cused, ho·cus-po·cus·ing or (especially British) ho·cus-po·cussed, ho·cus-po·cus·sing.
  1. to play tricks on or with.
verb (used without object), ho·cus-po·cused, ho·cus-po·cus·ing or (especially British) ho·cus-po·cussed, ho·cus-po·cus·sing.
  1. to perform tricks; practice trickery or deception.

Origin of hocus-pocus

First recorded in 1615–25; pseudo-Latin rhyming formula used by jugglers and magicians

Synonyms for hocus-pocus

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Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Examples from the Web for hocus-pocus

Historical Examples of hocus-pocus

  • With hocus-pocus like that no dog is lured from the stove in the real world.

  • 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.


    Owen Gregory

  • Theres your own prestige too, and all the hocus-pocus and mummery that you know how to work on them.

  • His holiness made his hocus-pocus with the greatest devotion.

British Dictionary definitions for hocus-pocus


  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 or -cussed
  1. to deceive or trick (someone)

Word Origin for hocus-pocus

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

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