Magic word

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Classic magic words

Magic words or words of power are words which have a specific, and sometimes unintended, effect.[1] They are often nonsense phrases used in fantasy fiction or by stage prestidigitators. Frequently such words are presented as being part of a divine, adamic, or other secret or empowered language. Certain comic book heroes use magic words to activate their powers. Magic words are also used as Easter eggs or cheats in computer games, other software, and operating systems (For example, the words xyzzy, plugh, and plover were magic words in the classic computer adventure game Colossal Cave Adventure).

Invocations of magic[edit]

Examples of traditional and modern magic words include:

  • Abracadabra – magic word used by magicians.[2]
  • ABRAHADABRA. This formula, used by author and occultist Aleister Crowley, is the Word of the Aeon of Horus and represents the accomplishment of the Great Work.
  • Ajji Majji la Tarajji – Iranian Magic Word (Persian).
  • Alakazam – a phrase used by magicians.[2]
  • ALHIM. This is a spelling of Elohim, a Hebrew name of God—or "Gods" in this case, since the spelling makes the name a masculine plural of the feminine noun. According to Crowley, it is a formula best used for consecration, since it "is the breath of benediction, yet so potent that it can give life to clay and light to darkness."[3]
  • Hocus pocus – a phrase used by magicians.
  • INRI. ינרי Yod, Nun, Resh, Yod. Hebrew translation of the Christian Jesus, King of the Jews formula,[4][5][6] This magical formula represents the passing of life to death and Resurrection, Used in many rituals including the Rose Cross and the Lesser Ritual of the Hexagram by many offshoots of the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn,[7], the magical organization first to so describe its power.
  • IPSOS. the word of the aeon of Ma'at other spellings include IPSOSh, IPShOS, IPShOSh from Liber Pennae Praenumbra by Nema.[8]
  • Jantar Mantar Jadu Mantar – a phrase used by magicians in India.
  • Presto chango or Hey Presto – used by magicians (probably intended to suggest "quick change").[9]
  • Shemhamforash – used by Satanists in rituals of Modern Satanism as outlined in The Satanic Bible.[10]

Magic words in fiction[edit]

Craig Conley, a scholar of magic, writes that the magic words used by conjurers may originate from "pseudo-Latin phrases, nonsense syllables, or esoteric terms from religious antiquity", but that what they have in common is "language as an instrument of creation".[14]

Magic words in technology[edit]

Software like MediaWiki uses "magic words" to make system information available to templates and editors, such as {{CURRENTTIME}}, which displays the server time: 12:45, see Help:Magic words.

Hexadecimal "words" used in byte code to identify a specific file or data format are known as magic numbers.

"The Magic Words are Squeamish Ossifrage" was the solution to a challenge ciphertext posed by the inventors of the RSA cipher in 1977.


The term "magic word" may also refer to the word please when used by adults to teach children manners:

"Gimme ketchup right now!"
"What's the magic word?"
"Sorry. May I have some ketchup, please?"

The single word changes an imperative order into a conditional request, concisely communicating "Do as I say, if it pleases you."

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Lecouteux, C. (2015). Dictionary of Ancient Magic Words and Spells: From Abraxas to Zoar. Inner Traditions/Bear. ISBN 978-1-62055-375-6. Retrieved 27 July 2018.
  2. ^ a b Mingren, Wu. "Say the Magic Word: The Origins of Abracadabra and Other Magical Mutterings". Retrieved 27 July 2018.
  3. ^ Crowley, Magick (Book 4), p.155
  4. ^ 777 p. 16-23
  5. ^ p. 37(30) Repletion
  6. ^ sepher sephiroth
  7. ^ The golden dawn, v. III p. 308
  8. ^ MAAT MAGICK p. 107
  9. ^ Peter Monticup. "Magic Glossary".
  10. ^ LaVey, Anton (1969). The Satanic Bible. New York: Avon Publishing. pp. 130, 134. ISBN 0-380-01539-0.
  11. ^ "Magic Words: A Dictionary". The Magician's Hidden Library. Retrieved 9 July 2012.
  12. ^ "Panda director 'for He-Man movie'". BBC News. 2009-01-30. Retrieved 30 July 2018.
  13. ^ "Sesame: Origin, History, Etymology and Mythology". 2015-11-30. Archived from the original on 25 January 2018. Retrieved 30 July 2018.
  14. ^ Conley, Craig (2008). Magic Words: A Dictionary. Weiser Books. p. 18. ISBN 9781609250508.

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