- mes·mer·ism (mĕz’mə-rĭz′əm, mĕs’-)n. 1) A strong or spellbinding appeal; fascination. 2) Hypnotic induction believed to involve animal magnetism. 3) Hypnotism.╂ [After Franz MESMER(Cf. ↑Mesmer).]mes·mer’ic (-mĕr’ĭk) adj. mes·mer’i·cal·ly adv. mes’mer·ist n.Word History: Franz Anton Mesmer, a visionary 18th-century physician, believed cures could be effected by having patients do things such as sit with their feet in a fountain of magnetized water while holding cables attached to magnetized trees. Mesmer then came to believe that magnetic powers resided in himself, and during highly fashionable curative sessions in Paris he caused his patients to have reactions ranging from sleeping or dancing to convulsions. These reactions were actually brought about by hypnotic powers that Mesmer was unaware he possessed. Eventually, Mesmer's practices came to be called mesmerism (a term first recorded in English in 1784). The related word mesmerize (first recorded in English in 1829), having shed its reference to the hypnotic doctor, lives on in the sense "to enthrall."
Word Histories. 2014.