Definition of Svengali in US English:


  • 1A musician in George du Maurier's novel Trilby (1894) who trains Trilby's voice and controls her stage singing hypnotically.

    1. 1.1as noun a Svengali A person who exercises a controlling or mesmeric influence on another, especially for a sinister purpose.
      • ‘Eisenhower's ‘Madison Avenue’ consultant, Rosser Reeves, of the agency BBD&O, won renown that year as a campaign Svengali.’
      • ‘Music Svengalis litter the music industry, but there's only one Anthony H Wilson.’
      • ‘They had better songs but more importantly they covered a broader age range, exhibiting a shrewdness lost on later generations of Svengalis.’
      • ‘But the Svengali rolled his dice with Lohan's current popularity and lost miserably.’
      • ‘Andrew Lloyd Webber was the Svengali who held the musical theatre stage in thrall.’
      • ‘Grover grew up in London's East End, where he served time as an armed robber, a hairdresser, a boxer and a self-help Svengali - so he has a hinterland of experiences to draw on.’
      • ‘Was Sam Phillips a Svengali, a super salesman, or a shaman?’
      • ‘Smug, self-satisfied and more than a little bit weird, it's difficult to tell if Gest is indeed well-meaning or some kind of queer Svengali.’
      • ‘Crossover soul was the vision of Motown's founder - Svengali Berry Gordy.’
      • ‘He adhered to famously beautiful women, as lover or court poet or Svengali, or all three.’
      • ‘Hypnosis is not a sinister tool for Svengalis but a ‘gentle, effective and empowering therapy’.’
      • ‘Ronnie was well known as my Svengali, but I admitted nothing about his role.’
      • ‘So he's not the Svengali of myth who convinced a generation of kids that fame is a basic human right, regardless of ability?’
      • ‘The worst of it's that he's only 20 months old and the Svengali who has done this to him is his own grandfather.’
      • ‘Karl Rove, Bush's political Svengali, has told the party that security will be a Republican issue in this year's mid-term elections.’
      • ‘Nothing like a one-hit wonder band composed of former members of the ‘Mickey Mouse Club’, organized by a team of music industry Svengalis to spell true love.’
      • ‘Acting as Svengali, manager and father figure, Tsunku's influence over the group is apparent at every level.’
      • ‘That's our axe to grind: to prove that we are our own Svengalis.’
      • ‘Brandt - in the style of Svengalis throughout the ages - took a vulnerable young man and promised to make him a star.’
      • ‘Of course, this also contributes to the disposability of idols: they become indistinguishable from one another, and they are rarely talented enough to survive without their Svengalis pulling their strings.’


Early 20th century: the name of a musician in George du Maurier's novel Trilby (1894), who controls Trilby's stage singing hypnotically.