Definition of Svengali in English:

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Pronunciation: /svɛnˈɡɑːli/


A person who exercises a controlling or mesmeric influence on another, especially for a sinister purpose.
Example sentences
  • Hypnosis is not a sinister tool for Svengalis but a ‘gentle, effective and empowering therapy’.
  • They had better songs but more importantly they covered a broader age range, exhibiting a shrewdness lost on later generations of Svengalis.
  • Music Svengalis litter the music industry, but there's only one Anthony H Wilson.


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

  • trilby from late 19th century:

    Trilby was the heroine of George du Maurier's novel Trilby, published in 1894. In the stage version the Trilby character wore a soft felt hat with a narrow brim and indented crown, which was immediately dubbed a trilby. Trilby falls under the influence of a musician called Svengali, who trains her voice by hypnotizing her and makes her into a famous singer, although she had been tone-deaf before meeting him. A person who exercises a controlling or mesmeric influence on another is consequently sometimes called a Svengali.

Words that rhyme with Svengali

Bali, barley, Cali, Carly, Charlie, Dali, Diwali, finale, gnarly, Gurkhali, Kali, Kigali, Mali, Marley, marly, Pali, parley, snarly, Somali, tamale

For editors and proofreaders

Line breaks: Sven|gali

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