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See hocus-pocus.


hocus (third-person singular simple present hocuses or hocusses, present participle hocusing or hocussing, simple past and past participle hocused or hocussed)

  1. To play a trick on, to trick (someone); to hoax; to cheat.
    • 1677, Poor Robin’s Visions, London: Arthur Boldero, Eighth Vision, p. 117,[1]
      [] to contemplate the miseries of a poor Poetick life, or study some well laid plot to Hocus his Landlady into a further credence or belief []
    • 1847, James Orchard Halliwell, Dictionary of Archaic and Provincial Words, London: John Russell Smith, p. 453,[2]
      HOCUS. To cheat. Hence the more modern term hoax.
    • 1884, Mark Twain, Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Chapter 11,[3]
      “Well, I reckon you have lived in the country. I thought maybe you was trying to hocus me again [] .”
    • 1936, Miles Franklin, All That Swagger, Chapter 20,[4]
      “You really are married by a priest or parson, not just hocussing me?”
  2. (obsolete) To stupefy (someone) with drugged liquor (especially in order to steal from them).
    • 1855, Thomas De Quincey, “Three Memorable Murders: A Sequel to ‘Murder Considered as One of the Fine Arts’” in The Note Book of an English Opium-Eater, Boston: Ticknor & Fields, p. 65,[5]
      [] but him they intended to disable by a trick then newly introduced amongst robbers, and termed hocussing, i. e., clandestinely drugging the liquor of the victim with laudanum []
    • 1862, Henry Mayhew and John Binny, The Criminal Prisons of London and Scenes of Prison Life, London: Griffin, Bohn, Introduction, § 4, p. 46,[6]
      The last of the criminal cases are the thieves, who admit of being classified as follows: [] (2.) Those who hocus or plunder persons by stupefying []
    • 1862, William Makepeace Thackeray, The Adventures of Philip, London: Smith, Elder, Volume 3, Chapter 9, p. 207,[7]
      [] he frantically reiterated his charge, that he had been robbed and hocussed in that house, that night, by Mrs. Brandon.
    • 1905, Baroness Emmuska Orczy, “The Hocussing of Cigarette” in Baroness Orczy’s Old Man in the Corner: The Old Man in the Corner, The Case of Miss Elliott, The Glasgow Mystery, Landsville, Pennsylvania: Coachwhip Publications, 2010, p. 243,[8]
      Then I had a good think on the subject of the hocussing of Cigarette, and I was reluctantly bound to admit that once again the man in the corner had found the only possible solution to the mystery.
  3. (obsolete) To drug (liquor).
    • 1865, Charles Dickens, Our Mutual Friend, Book 2, Chapter 12,[9]
      [] I think the wine of them two Governors was—I will not say a hocussed wine, but fur from a wine as was elthy for the mind.
    • 1907, Arthur Quiller-Couch, “His Excellency’s Prize-Fight” in Merry-Garden and Other Stories, London: Methuen, p. 189,[10]
      [He] served them out three fingers of rum apiece, which the bo’sun took upon himself to hocus. By latest accounts, they’re sleeping it off []
  4. (obsolete) To adulterate (food).
    • 1915, Arthur Christopher Benson, “Schooldays” in Escape and Other Essays, London: Smith, Elder, pp. 197-198,[11]
      I had a healthy appetite, but the tradition was that all the food was unutterably bad, adulterated, hocussed.
    • 1916, Percy F. Westerman, Rounding Up the Raider, London: Blackie & Son, Chapter 3,[12]
      “Those rotten Huns have been hocussing our grub.”


hocus (plural hocuses)

  1. (obsolete) A magician, illusionist, one who practises sleight of hand.
    • 1660, Don Pedro de Quixot, or in English the Right Reverend Hugh Peters, London: T. Smith,[13]
      Certainly he was the bravest Ambodexter of his time, and this blinded age, or that ever was among us dull Northern people; and among the multitude of his Tricks, I shall commend to the Hocusses of Bartholomew Fair, for their information and edification, this Legerdemain (for it is supposed it will hardly be practicable any more in the Pulpit;)
    • 1668, Richard Head, The English Rogue Described, in the Life of Meriton Latroon, a Witty Extravagant, London: Francis Kirkman, Chapter 14, p. 150,[14]
      I called freely for what was in the house, which was readily brought me; but when the servants beheld with what cele[r]ity, (Hocus like) and cleanly conveyance, I had disposed of what was before me, they verily believed in one week, I would cause a dearth in the house []
    • 1689, Roger L’Estrange (translator), Twenty-Two Select Colloquies out of Erasmus Roterodamus, London: R. Bentley & R. Sare, p. 33,[15]
      ’Tis rather to exercise our Curiosity, and keep us from Idleness, or worse Diversions, as running mad after Buffoons, Dice, Fortune-tellers, and Hocus’s, &c.
  2. (obsolete) One who cheats or deceives.
    • 1685, Robert South, “A Sermon Preached at Christ-Church, Oxon, Before the University, May 3. 1685” in Twelve Sermons Preached upon Several Occasions, London: Thomas Bennett, 1692, p. 523,[16]
      [] when thy Brother has lost all that ever he had, and lies languishing, and even gasping under the utmost extremities of poverty and distress, dost thou think thus to lick him whole again, only with thy Tongue? just like that old formal Hocus, who denyed a Beggar a farthing, and put him off with his Blessing.
    • 1687, Roger L’Estrange, A Brief History of the Times, &c., London: Charles Brome, Chapter 6, p. 106,[17]
      I have the Originals at This Present in my Hand, and there is the Paw of Tong and Otes so manifestly in the very Writing of them; as if they had not thought it worth the while to Disguise the Cheat. It was an Imposture, that their very Souls, Heads, Hearts, and Hands were All at Work upon; And the Forgery Vndeniable; only Tong Himself was the Master-Hocus.
  3. Trick; trickery.
    • 1665, William Johnson, Agyrto-Mastix, London: Henry Brome, p. 30,[18]
      As in almost every Chapter of his Book, so in this Seventh, he has a new Hocus to carry on his old design []
    • 1693, Robert Gould, The Corruption of the Times by Money: A Satyr, London: Matthew Wotton, p. 3,[19]
      The Jugler and the Judge, too, may complain,
      For both now strive to cheat the World in vain;
      In slight and shift and Trick they both agree,
      But a quick Eye may all their Hocus see:
    • 1871, Benjamin Jowett, letter to Florence Nightingale dated 29 September, 1871, cited in Edward Tyas Cook, The Life of Florence Nightingale, London: Macmillan, 1913, Volume 2, Part 7, Chapter 1, p. 223,[20]
      [] I do not agree with you in thinking that there are no difficulties, although the old difficulties, about the origin of evil &c., are generally a hocus of Theologians.
    • 1959, Ian Fleming, Goldfinger, London: Jonathan Cape, Chapter 17,[21]
      He was amused by the uncompromising attitude that said to Goldfinger and to the room, ‘All men are bastards and cheats. Don’t try any masculine hocus on me. I don’t go for it. I’m in a separate league.’
  4. (obsolete) Drugged liquor.

See also[edit]