Definition of incant in US English:



[with object]
  • Chant or intone.

    ‘priests were incanting psalms around her body’
    • ‘Draco smiled and pulled out his wand, pointing it at the curtains he incanted, ‘Claudo Velum, Velum Silencio Totalis.’’
    • ‘Let me assure you that all the spelling and incanting you can muster will not find a chosen card in a deck, nor will it materialize a bunny in an empty hat.’
    • ‘She then positioned herself between the two points which had no candles, and began to incant that which would give her power from death.’
    • ‘The priest then did some more incanting, which led to a reversal of the long howl that had summoned forth the gods and now, in reverse, sent them back to their places, and ended the ceremony.’
    • ‘With his feet planted firmly on the footpath of Disney's 1964 film, Mary Poppins, Bert (Dick Van Dyke) incants the magic words which he assures us, will transport him and the children into the world within the picture he has drawn.’
    • ‘The church was still and quiet, as the preacher incanted somnolently.’
    • ‘The man smiled and became less formal now that the prayer of Faith had been incanted.’
    • ‘As he shinned down the final tree, he stopped to lay his head against its trunk and incant thanks to the spirit within for sharing its bounty with him.’
    • ‘Thomas' words - particularly as incanted by Burton, who was born to read them - make your whole body tingle.’
    • ‘In the end, debating the point at the high level of abstraction at which you are debating it simply leads us to a search for formulae which can be ritually incanted by trial judges.’
    • ‘Now at one-fifteen pm, Glyn advanced purposefully on the PC, opened his BIG BLACK BAG and, incanting the magical chant, ‘This should be pretty simple’ began to perform an operation of electronic surgery with both guile and dexterity.’
    • ‘Then he pulled his wand out of his pocket and, trying to focus on his task, incanted, ‘Reficio Musculis Vertebrata.’’
    • ‘I then announced I would incant this spell every time I went for a ride and the car would work.’
    sing, intone, recite
    View synonyms


Mid 16th century (in the sense ‘use enchantment on’): from Latin incantare ‘to chant, charm’, from in- (expressing intensive force) + cantare ‘sing’. The current sense dates from the mid 20th century.