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Magic Glossary

Some Magical Terms and Their Meanings

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Our glossary section is meant to be a combination of word definitions and trivia. A different kind of word list. By no means is this list meant to be a complete glossary of all magic terms; there are many books available which already provide that information. Rather, we want you to enjoy reading this list- and maybe learn something new!

Magic Hat and Wand

Magic word used to help magician "make something happen". In reality, it is derived from ancient cabalistic symbols and at one time was believed to hold real power. The word may be derived from the Hebrew Ha-b'rakah, meaning "the blessing" or "the sacred name".
Either the playing card with a singular pip, or the side of a die with only one spot. From the Latin as, or unit.
The magicians who specialized in performing the Cups and Balls trick in ancient Rome. From the Latin for "vinegar cup".
Brand name of cards manufactured by U.S. Playing Card Co.
Brand of cards manufactured by U.S. Playing Card Co. Design is symmetrical. Many gimmicked card decks are made with this back design. Also known as Fox Lake.
Special back design of cards manufactured by U.S. Playing Card Co. Small scale pattern with no border makes this type of deck excellent for card sleights, as the pattern helps camouflage the moves.
Broken Wand Ceremony
Special ceremony conducted at the funeral of a magician in which a wand is broken to symbolize the loss of magical power. The first one was conducted by the Society of American Magicians at Houdini's memorial service in 1926.
Originally used to describe one who summons (or "conjures") demons and spirits, the first use of this term to describe the magician as entertainer was in 1785, in a French book titled The Conjurer Unmasked. "Conjuror" is an alternate spelling.
Card magician and/or manipulator. Ed Marlo coined the term as the title of his 1953 book, The Cardician.
A performer of seemingly miraculous feats (such as firewalking, snake charming and lying on a bed of nails), usually with some religious significance. This term is sometimes mistakenly used to describe a magician or conjurer; the proper Indian term for "magician" is really jadoo wallah.
"The Ghost Walks"
Theater slang for getting paid. Meant to sarcastically convey the rarity of the event, as in the familiar "When Hell freezes over" expression.
Hat Production
Not the production of hats, but rather the seemingly impossible production of many items from a single hat. Hartz's "Devil of a Hat" routine and Thurston's "All Out of a Hat" were spectacular productions. This effects lost its popularity when fashion changed and men no longer wore hats; today, the hat would seem to be a prop rather than an "ordinary object".
Hocus Pocus
Nonsense phrase used to help the magician "make something happen". Some feel that the word is a corruption of a Latin phrase used in the Mass, others say that it was the name of a magician. Still another source considers it a reference to the Norse folktale sorcerer Ochus Bochus. It could also be a meaningless phrase, created for its sound alone.
Magicians were originally called "jugglers".
French term (literally "light of hand") commonly used to refer to sleight of hand or magical manipulation.
Phrase coined by French magician Jules deRovere in 1815; loosely translated, the term means "performed with quick fingers".
Magic word taken from the musical term presto, for "quickly".
Large pocket in the tails of a long tuxedo coat that allows the magician to vanish items by tossing them down and behind him, into the pocket.
Pouch or shelf positioned on the magician's side of a table, hidden from the spectator's view, but allowing the magician to dispose of items by secretly dropping them into or onto the servante while the hands seem to always remain in full view above the table.
Sim Sala Bim
"Magic words" made popular by Dante; in fact, his show was named Sim Sala Bim. Actually, it was a magical phrase taken from a popular Danish fairy tale (Dante was from Denmark).
Stodare Egg
Proper name for the hollow egg used to vanish a silk. Used in the Silk To Egg effect.
Large pocket in the lining of a jacket that allows the magician to vanish items by tossing them secretly and smoothly into the pocket.
French for "here it is".
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