Word of the Day



a very relaxed state in which you seem to be sleeping but can still react to someone else’s suggestions

Origin and usage

The word hypnosis comes from a combination of the Greek word ‘hypnos’ meaning ‘sleep’ and the Latin and Greek element ‘osis’ meaning ‘condition or state’. In English, hypnosis was first used around 1869.


Hypnosis refers to a state of mind in which a person seems to be sleeping but can still respond to commands. Hypnosis can be introduced with words and visualization techniques, usually guided by a professional. People who undergo hypnosis are calm and very relaxed, but also focused and able to concentrate on instructions or suggestions.

Many people use hypnosis to cope with stress and anxiety, especially before medical procedures. Hypnosis is also sometimes used to help people with things like managing chronic pain, relieving discomfort and overcoming feelings of extreme tiredness. Hypnosis can sometimes be used to help people break bad habits, such as smoking or overeating.

Professional therapists specially trained in hypnosis can assist patients looking for help with any of these conditions. People can also learn how to practise self-hypnosis and may be able to put themselves into this relaxed state of mind whenever they need to, without the help of a therapist.


Hypnosis is about shutting down the conscious mind and re-igniting the unconscious and the imagination, so while I give instructions to them under hypnosis, the contestants might interpret those instructions in all kinds of ways.”

(Keith Barry)

“…it was an act of self-hypnosis, a deliberate drowning of consciousness by means of rhythmic noise.”

(George Orwell, 1984)

View the full definition in the Macmillan Dictionary.

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Macmillan Dictionary

Macmillan Dictionary

Macmillan Dictionary is an award-winning, one-stop reference for English learners and speakers around the world.

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