from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License.

  • noun One who manipulates or controls another as by some mesmeric or sinister influence; especially a coach, mentor or industry mogul.


from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

Named from a character in George du Maurier's novel Trilby.


Help support Wordnik (and make this page ad-free) by adopting the word svengali.


  • Such was her perceived hold over the Blairs that she was frequently described as a "svengali or Rasputin" character.

    Evening Standard - Home Viv Groskop 2011

  • He's been called their svengali, but his contributions tonight feel entirely convivial.

    The Unthanks 2010

  • Late Late Update: I used the word "svengali" to describe Power when I meant "guru."

    Power Resigns Over Hillary-Is-Monster Comment 2009

  • Late Late Update: I used the word "svengali" to describe Power when I meant "guru."

    Power Resigns Over Hillary-Is-Monster Comment 2009

  • It's at this point that the best sequences occur when her admirer, the Tory MP Airey Neave (Nicholas Farrell), and her svengali, the TV guru Gordon Reece (Roger Allam), take her in hand.

    The Iron Lady – review 2012

  • McKenna's Ingenious group is a specialist tax and financial adviser to media companies, helping back Spice Girls svengali Simon Fuller, advise Robbie Williams on a £50m record deal with EMI, and part financing films such as Avatar.

    Ex-Lloyd Webber accountant to advise Labour on tax breaks for creative sector 2011

  • Last year, CREW launched this website to introduce the public to Richard Berman, the PR svengali.

    Left-wing front group doesn't like public employee study 2011

  • But the acting glory is stolen by the incredible Michael Shannon as their crazed svengali producer Kim Fowley – a wild, hilarious and monstrous character, his every line quotable.

    This week's new DVD & Blu-ray 2011

  • But Elisabeth – wife of PR svengali Matthew Freud – has fallen out with her brother James over the handling of the phone-hacking affair, and no longer believes he is right to take over from Rupert at the helm.

    The Saturday interview: Wendi Murdoch 2011

  • This line, from a chapter on "The Economics of Museums" in the "Handbook of the Economics of Art and Culture," flashed into my head yesterday when I finally got to go to see "Experience," the New Museum's blockbuster retrospective of Belgian relational aesthetics svengali Carsten Höller.

    ARTINFO: Carsten Holler and the Slippery Slope of Relational Aesthetics ARTINFO 2012


Log in or sign up to get involved in the conversation. It's quick and easy.

  • A character from George du Maurier's 1894 novel Trilby who controls the tone-deaf eponymous heroine's singing voice by means of hypnosis, enabling her to become an international diva. This character's name has become a byword for someone who exerts a controlling influence over another, usually for a sinister purpose.

    August 30, 2008

  • See almost Solveig and beetlestomper. See, also, Shite Mega-Megahit.

    May 14, 2010

  • The term has entered the media lexicon for an unaccountable but overridingly influential adviser to a political leader or candidate.

    December 17, 2010