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Definition: A magician – a worker of wonders

Pronunciation: thaou-mat-urj

Origin: Early 17th century – from Greek thaumatourgos – combining the words thauma (referring to wonderment – and sharing the ame root as theatre) and ergon – the Greek word for work.

Why this word?

There can never be enough words to describe something or someone that causes wonderment – and this one, thaumaturge, is probably the most apt of all. A magician conjures up images of someone who – literally – does magic – someone who has access to powers that the rest of us don’t. A wizard is an even more extreme example of this – invoking an image of someone who need not even obey the laws of physics. In earlier times, the public may have believed that such people did, indeed, have extra-ordinary powers. Nowadays, however, we know better. The magician does not have powers – s/he has an act. Why not, therefore, use thaumaturge to describe the modern day magician – after all, thaumaturge and theatre quite aptly share the same root.

How to use this word?

Despite the aptness of this word as a descriptor for modern-day practitioners of magic, I’m afraid that reviving it could pose difficulties. Thaumaturge is something of a cumbersome word. Perhaps if it was used as a journalistic word it might eventually catch on – but to think that it could be used immediately in every-day speech is nothing more than illusion.


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Written by Sean Carabini

Seán Carabini is a Dublin-based author. To date, Seán has written the humorous travel memoirs 'Sticking Out in Minnesota' and 'American Road', as well as 'American Road: The poems' - a book of travel poetry related to the memoir. Seán has also developed a podcast based on the book - subscribe to the American Road podcast today! Seán is a committee member of the Irish Writers' Union.

Chrissy Skelton is Seán Carabini's editor. A graduate of the University of Minnesota's Anthropology programme, Chrissy emerged armed with an arsenal of little-known words and cumbersome jargon - all of which will now be off-loaded onto 'unusedwords' readers!


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