Magic word

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Classic magic words

Magic words are often nonsense phrases used in fantasy fiction or by stage magicians. 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:[1]

  • Abracadabra – magic word used by magicians.
  • Ajji Majji la Tarajji – Iranian magic word (Persian).[citation needed]
  • Alakazam – a phrase used by magicians.[2]
  • Hocus pocus – a phrase used by magicians.
  • Jantar Mantar Jadu Mantar – a phrase used by magicians in India.[citation needed]
  • Presto chango or Hey Presto – used by magicians (probably intended to suggest "quick change").[3]

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".[7]

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: 11:43, 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. ^ Ramasami, Ponnadurai (September 2015). "Perspectives of Virtual Conference on Computational Chemistry (VCCC-2014)". Journal of Computational Science. 10: 155. doi:10.1016/j.jocs.2015.08.006. ISSN 1877-7503.
  2. ^ Stibbe, Arran (2005). "ABRACADABRA, ALAKAZAM: Colonialism and the Discourse of Entertainment Magic". Soundings: An Interdisciplinary Journal. 88 (3/4): 414–415. ISSN 0038-1861.
  3. ^ Peter Monticup. "Magic Glossary".
  4. ^ "Magic Words: A Dictionary". The Magician's Hidden Library. Retrieved 9 July 2012.
  5. ^ "Panda director 'for He-Man movie'". BBC News. 2009-01-30. Retrieved 30 July 2018.
  6. ^ "Sesame: Origin, History, Etymology and Mythology". 2015-11-30. Archived from the original on 25 January 2018. Retrieved 30 July 2018.
  7. ^ Conley, Craig (2008). Magic Words: A Dictionary. Weiser Books. p. 18. ISBN 9781609250508.

External links[edit]