Definition of hocus-pocus in English:



  • 1Meaningless talk or activity, often designed to draw attention away from and disguise what is actually happening.

    ‘some people still view psychology as a lot of hocus-pocus’
    • ‘He never offers specifics; it's all hocus-pocus.’
    • ‘More evidence of religious hocus-pocus over substance?’
    • ‘In the healing story that Mark tells, things are even more ordinary: a simple question, a brief response, no hocus-pocus.’
    • ‘His bill not only includes some $400 million a year in direct subsidies, but it also attempts to bamboozle us with linguistic hocus-pocus, simply defining away the industry's environmental ugliness.’
    • ‘The operation behind the printing of those statements is a show of such technological hocus-pocus that it is distracting.’
    • ‘And no amount of organic industry hocus-pocus can make that truth disappear.’
    • ‘But everything else in this ‘investigation’ is not much more than editorial hocus-pocus.’
    • ‘He recalled that his father suffered greatly because people misunderstood what he did for black magic or some other hocus-pocus.’
    • ‘No statistical hocus-pocus can hide this real-life, greed-induced assault on our country's middle class.’
    • ‘Yet while most mind-reading acts wrap their shows up in a cloak of hocus-pocus, Salem portrays his mind games as science.’
    • ‘I like the simple, durable types that have manual controls - no electronic hocus-pocuses.’
    • ‘Of course, after all the reports of financial hocus-pocus, investors are understandably wary of earnings figures being put out by corporations.’
    • ‘For secrets on the technical hocus-pocus, go with the two production commentaries.’
    • ‘As he puts it, ‘There is always a conundrum, a mystery and hocus-pocus in an established religion.’’
    • ‘Without these other figures, the rest is hocus-pocus.’
    • ‘And if the virtual world is broad, it obviously isn't broad enough to enable one to escape from this kind of corporate hocus-pocus.’
    • ‘By the dawn of the Scientific Revolution, researchers equipped with microscopes founded modern chemistry - and dismissed alchemy as hocus-pocus.’
    jargon, unintelligible language, obscure language, mumbo jumbo, argle-bargle, gibberish, balderdash, claptrap, nonsense, rubbish, twaddle
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    1. 1.1 A form of words often used by a person performing magic tricks.
      • ‘She reads a simple incantation, and before anyone can say "Hocus Pocus!" or twitch a nose all three girls are changed.’
      • ‘Abracadabra, Abraxas and Hocus Pocus are well-known examples of verbal spells.’
      • ‘The Spencers would be the first to say that it takes more than a magic wand and a couple of hocus-pocuses to help people feel better about themselves.’
      • ‘The power of magick is not just hocus-pocus, a wiggle of a rat, and a curse with a bat.’
      • ‘Up to that point it was all potions and hocus-pocus.’
      • ‘‘Maybe you'd prefer abracadabra hocus-pocus,’ said Madi nastily, and the room was filled with pretty multicoloured sparkles which eventually faded away.’
      magic words, magic formula, mumbo jumbo, abracadabra, incantation, chant, invocation, charm
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    2. 1.2US Deception; trickery.
      • ‘One is simply another name for psychic healing and involves none of the fake hocus-pocus of the other.’
      • ‘As I've already said, there are lots of people who are sceptical about psychics, and think that's it's just hocus-pocus.’
      • ‘Our most beloved hocus-pocus of all is the idea that economic growth will rescue us from all our troubles - but last fall the economy grew 8 percent without creating any new jobs to speak of.’
      • ‘There is no hocus-pocus, no aggressive posturing or screaming for effect.’


Early 17th century: from hax pax max Deus adimax, a pseudo-Latin phrase used as a magic formula by conjurors.