[sven-gah-lee, sfen-]


a person who completely dominates another, usually with selfish or sinister motives.

Origin of Svengali

First recorded in 1940–45; after the evil hypnotist of the same name in the novel Trilby (1894) by George Du Maurier Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for svengali

British Dictionary definitions for svengali



a person who controls another's mind, usually with sinister intentions

Word Origin for Svengali

after a character in George Du Maurier's novel Trilby (1894)

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 svengali


"one who exerts controlling or mesmeric influence on another," 1914, from hypnotist character of that name in the novel "Trilby" (1894) by George Du Maurier.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper