What does Svengali mean?

Svengali is a term used for a person who has the ability to manipulate or control another person with ease, especially for a sinister purpose.


What's the origin of Svengali?

In George du Maurier’s novel, Trilby, published in 1984, a young half-Irish girl by the name of Trilby O’Ferrall was manipulated by Svengali.

In this novel, Svengali was an evil musician and a hypnotist.

Svengali trains Trilby’s voice by using hypnosis, which makes her an amazing singer, making good use of her for his own needs.

Spread & Usage

How did Svengali spread?

In 1919, his name got picked up by the public who read the novel, and the word/name “Svengali” is still used in the same manner.

The character was portrayed by many actors throughout the century in different adaptations of the story, all titled “Svengali”.

However, the most popular adaptation, that lead to the skyrocket in the use of the term, was the 1983 edition with Jodie Foster, Peter O’Toole, Holly Hunter and Larry Joshua.

In 2021 Amazon Prime released Paradise city in which a character named “Levi Svengali” is formed by actor Ash Avildsen.

People still use this as a nickname for people, who can manipulate people with ease, making an ill will use on the other person.

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