What is the name for a magic word/phrase that is meant to give the bearer supernatural power or protection. It's the same idea as a talisman or charm, but not an object.

An example would be saying "bless you" when someone sneezes (which was originally meant to keep the person's spirit from leaving their body). Another example would be an exorcist commanding demons to come out in the name of Jesus.

"He used a ... to exercise control over the demon."

  • Maybe. I was also thinking of an incantation, but it doesn't seem to match the sense of usage I'm thinking of. I'm having a hard time discerning why. In the examples I provided, the user is appealing to power, but not exercising power as a sorcerer would when he speaks the words of a spell.
    – Planky
    Jan 6, 2018 at 21:34
  • @Clare I think if you reread the question and comments, you'll see that I didn't equate exorcism with magic. In fact, I asked the question with the purpose of differentiating exorcism from magic per se. I was reading Acts 19:13-17 where exorcists tried to use the name of Jesus as magic and were severely beaten for their mistake.
    – Planky
    Jan 6, 2018 at 22:34
  • All right, I've inserted your comment into your answer. In this case it seems you are not talking about a genuine exorcist but a false one. I appreciate the clarification. Jan 6, 2018 at 22:40

1 Answer 1


There are so many magical traditions, both real and fictional, each with their own terminology, that there are probably countless words for this; here are a few common ones.

An incantation is a formulaic word or phrase used to gain some magical effect.

An invocation is a word or phrase used to command something, such as a spirit or demon, or to call upon or use the power of some entity. In this sense, it's similar to the everyday use (eg. "The suspect invoked the 5th Amendment"). A common pseudo-magical invocation (in the sense that it's used to create some extra-normal effect) is "In the name of the Lord", popular with pop exorcists but also used in more mundane settings.

The related word evocation is generally used for an invocation of a force or abstract concept rather than a spirit, creature or person. In a lot of fiction involving magic, evocation is the class of magic to do with conjuring fireballs, controlling lightning, and so on.

To abjure something is to drive it out. More literally, it means "command to go away", from the Latin ab ("away", as seen in abduct, to carry someone or something away, and absent, "not here" or "somewhere else"), and, also Latin, jurare ("to swear", in the sense of swearing an oath, these days used with a connotation of command or law, hence jury, jurisprudence, and de jure, a legal term meaning "by the law"). When you abjure something, you are performing an abjuration.

Other, more general words might be a charm (a fairly vague word generally used to mean some magical effect, often but not necessarily a physical object) or a spell (also fairly vague, but implies a specific formula being followed, often a word or phrase). Tolkien (among others) used word of power at one point in his work.

  • Thank you for educating me! :) "Word of power" is probably closest to what I had in mind. It carries the idea of using the word but the presumed authority rests somewhere else.
    – Planky
    Jan 6, 2018 at 22:04
  • @Planky Glad I could help. Jan 6, 2018 at 22:53

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