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From Ancient Greek ἀποτρόπαιος (apotrópaios), from ἀπό (apó, away) and τρόπος (trópos, turn); thus meaning “causing things to turn away”, as in “turns away evil”.


apotropaic (comparative more apotropaic, superlative most apotropaic)

  1. (religion, mysticism) Intended to ward off evil. [from 1883]
    • 2007 August 12, Christopher Hitchens, “Harry Potter: The Boy Who Lived”, in New York Times Book Review:
      A boring subtext, about the wisdom or otherwise of actually uttering Voldemort's name, meanwhile robs the apotropaic device of its force.
    • 2010, Mary Beard, chapter 7, in Pompeii: The Life of a Roman Town:
      In earlier generations scholars reacted by removing many of these objects from public view, putting them in the ‘Secret Cabinet’ of the museum at Naples or otherwise under wraps. [] More recently the fashion has been to deflect attention from their sexuality by referring to them as ‘magical’, ‘apotropaic’ or ‘averters of the evil eye’.

Derived terms[edit]



apotropaic (plural apotropaics)

  1. An agent intended to ward off evil.