ICOM Cyclopedia of Magic

I.C.O.M Cyclopedia of Magic

Compiled And Exclusively Written By Bobby J. Gallo & Ronald J. Dayton Copyright 1998 International Conservatory Of Magic All Rights Reserved

More Than 187 definitions Every Magician Should Know. We feel this is the world’s most complete magician’s glossary.


Acquitment: The sleight involved in showing both hands empty where an object is concealed. The Changeover palm is a popular “aquitment”.

Accordion Pleat: To fold a handkerchief or paper in such a fashion as to appear like an accordion when viewed from the side. The purpose of which is to allow the object to expand in a rapid manner during production.

Afghan Bands: A unique effect in which cloth or paper bands are torn in half along their length producing different and amuzing results at the conclusion of each tear.  The effect uses the mobius principle.

Angles: The viewing path of the audience.

Apparatus:  The equipment used by a performer to present his magic.

Appearance: The production of a single article apparently out of thin-air.

Assistant:  That person or persons who assists or helps in the performance, either directly or indirectly.


Balloon Worker:  A novelty or speciality act in which different style balloons are inflated in entertaining ways,  often coupled with the creation of balloon sculptures.

Billiard Ball: In magic, the name of an object used by magicians in the art of manipulation. A small ball of sorts.

Bill Tube:  A tube and cap made to hold a rolled up dollar bill, often with a screw on or locking cap.  Apparatus is usually machined of brass. Vanished bill appears in tube.

Billet:  A small piece of paper upon which information is written,  used in mental effects.

Bizzare Magic: A form of the magical entertainment that relys on occult, supernatural, or offbeat presentations to add drama to a magic effect.

Black Art:  An old, and very deceptive method of stage magic in which the fact that  black on black background is almost inperceptible.  A near perfect form of visual camouflage and concealment.

Blendo:  Usually referring to an effect in which items such as silks or bills are caused to magically blend together in various ways.

Blindfold Drive:  A very risky form of X-ray vision act in which the perfomer’s vision is obscured with layers of gauze, bandages, metal shields etc.,  then an additional blindfold and possibly a cloth sack for good measure.  Still, in some mysterious way, the person is able to drive and navigate a car through streets he has never seen before.

Blue Room:  A Principle in magic as well as a classic illusion in which the graduated reflective properties of a mirrored cheet of glass are employed.

Book Test:   A specific routine in mentalism in which chosen lines or words in a book are divined by the medium.

Botania:  Effect in which an impressive feather flower bouquet is produced from under a large tube previously shown empty.

Bow Knot: A specialized knot used during certain rope sequences.

Bridge Size Deck: The smaller of the two American sized playing cards. Width measures 2-1/4 in.


Card Discovery: The act of revealing a selected card after being lost in a deck during a magical routine.

Card Index:  A pocket file which separates certain cards from one another so they may be instantly located and openly removed from the pocket.

Card Location: The act of revealing a selected card after being lost in a deck during a magical routine.

Cape: Rarely used apparel of a magician. Early on used as a cover for the concealment and production of articles.

Center Tear:   A method for secretly obtaining a message or image from the folded piece of paper upon which it has been written as the paper is being torn into pieces.

Change Bags:  Cloth bags which have secret compartments to switch one object for another. Some bags have attached handles, others do not, some are even made of clear plastic, but the principle remains the same.

Chapeaugraphy:  A specialized form of entertainment, not necessarily magical, in which a large, donut shaped ring of heavy felt is manipulated to form a  wide variety of hats for the performer to wear.  The changes are rapid, and the patter witty.

Classic Palm: The standard method of concealing an object in the hand unaware to the audience.

Clatter Box: Comedy prop box which falls apart when handled by a spectator.

Clippo:  Term used for a unique cut and restored  effect employing a strip of paper and principles of adhesion.

Close-up: The term for magic that is performed less than ten feet from an audience.

Coin Fold: A vanish of a coin or small object involving a small piece of paper coupled with sleight of hand.

Coin Roll: A Master Flourish involving a coin to travel in between each of the performers fingers over the back of his/her hand.

Confederate:  A secret assistant in the audience, who plays the roll of an ordinary spectator, and relays information to you needed for the completion of certain effects.

Conjuring: A term used in magic to indicate the acting out of magic or, a variation of conjuration, or the summoning of demons to gain supernatural assistance in performing miracles. The term conjuring is synonymous with magic.

Conjurer: An actor playing the part of a magician.

Control: A means by which the performer may secretly cause an object to appear where he / she desires at any given point in time unaware to the audience. Mostly associated with card magic.

Commercial: Material tailored to appeal to the mass public.

Coring: The act of removing the center part of magician’s cotton rope.

Coiling: The act of wrapping a length of rope around the hand.

Crimp:  A bend secretly placed into a card to facilitate finding its location in the deck.

Cull: The secret removal of, and repositioning of a certain card or cards within a deck.

Cut: To separate the cards in the center and reverse the packet positions.


Daub: A secret substance which may be placed under the nail of the thumb or on the pad of a finger so secretly  mark cards.

Dealing: The distribution of playing cards to a number of players/spectators.

Deuce: Another name for a two use in magic and card games.

Diminishing:  Becoming smaller, i.e. Diminishing cards, bills, golf balls, die, etc.

Do-As-I-Do: An effect where a spectator attempts to duplicate the feats of the performer, often with humorous results.

Double Cut: The act of cutting a deck twice rather than the standard single cut.

Double Face:  Special cards printed with  suits and values on both sides.

Double Walled: A gaff where the prop has two compartments, one disguised. Often used to produce, change or vanish an object.

Dropper: A device or holder which is worn under the jacket, near the side edge, which will drop or deliver an object into the performers waiting hand.  i.e. Cigarette Droppers,  Ball Droppers, Coin Droppers etc.


Effect:  A term often used by magicians to refer to the apparent magic as witnessed by an audience during a given trick.

Equivoques’ (Magician’s Choice): An extremely useful and valuable method by which the magician’s influences the out come of an apparent choice by a spectator.


Face: The side of a playing card that shows the value and suit.

Face Card: The cards with values Jack through King.

Face of Deck: The position of the deck where the values show and not the backs.

Fake:  A hidden device which assists in the completion of an effect. Unlike a gimmick, the             fake is visible at all times.  It is an object which appears to be one thing…but acutally has a special purpose.

False Cut: The act of convincing the audience that the cards were legitimately cut when in fact they end up in the identical state as they were prior to the move. Used many times when a False Shuffle is not practical.

False Shuffle: The act of convincing the audience that the cards were legitimately shuffled when in fact they end up in the identical state as they were prior to the move.

Farro Shuffle:  A specialized shuffle in which the cards are divided into two packets, then these butted together, end to end, and the cards interspersed in an alternating fashion.

Fakir: An East Indian magician specializing in physical magic.

Finger-Palm: A type of Palming where the concealed objects is hidden the curled fingers.

F.I.S.M : An international convention and competition…which takes place in Europe every four years.  It is like the olympics of magic.  The very best in the world compete for highly esteemed awards.

Flash: A method by which the performer allows the spectator to briefly see an object used in a magical routine for forcing or misdirection purposes.

Flash Paper: Chemically treated tissue paper which has been allowed to dry.  Contact with fire instantly ignites the paper with an intense burst of fire and light.

Flash Pot: A special container, usually activated by an electrical current which will set off a special powder inside the container, creating a puff of smoke.

Foulard:   A large scarf or covering cloth.  Heavier than a silk.

Flourish: A feat that is a mixture of mystery and dexterity. Often used to demonstrate the skill of the performer. Very pleasing to witness.

Foo Can:  A specialized container which may be shown to be empty even though it actually contains a quantity of liquid.

Force/Forcing (card): The ability of a performer to make a spectator unwittingly choose an object secretly selected by the magician. One of the most guarded secrets in magic.

Free Choice: A truly free selection of an object by a spectator to be used in conjunction with a magical presentation.

French Drop:  An older sleight, used mostly with coins for a vanish. Seldom seen  since newer methods have evolved.  Still effective with modifications.


A joke or funny visual climax to a magic or comedy routine.

A technique used by magicians as well as card sharps to gain the identity of a particular playing card chosen by a spectator or dealt during a card game.

Giant Card: A jumbo version of a normal size playing card generally used in stage magic for visibility reason.

Gimmick: The general term for the a secret device often responsible for the magic effect in a given routine.

Glimpse: The act of the performer secretly noting the identity of an object during a magical routine. Mostly used in card work.

Glide: a sleight used to in-jog the bottom card of the deck to facilitate the illusion of the bottom card being withdrawn.


Hat Coil:  A paper production coil…very visual.  Usually produced from top hats or rice bowls. When inverted releases a streaming flow of paper ribbon.  Great cover for the production of livestock.

Hat Trick: The classic routine of producing empty articles from a top-hat or similar receptacle.

Hold Out:  A secret mechanical device which will deliver objects secretly into or from the performer’s jacket sleeve.

Hooked Coin:  A coin which actually has a hook attached to it for vanishes or productions.

Houdini: The most famous name associated with magic. A Turn of the century magician who specialized in escapes, small magic and spiritualistic stunts.

Houlette:  An old term which indicates a decorative or specialized card case or holder.

Hindu Shuffle: A type of shuffle uses to force of control a card or number of cards.


I.B.M: Acronym for “International Brotherhood of Magician’s ™”.

I.C.O.M: Acronym for The International Conservatory of Magic ™

I.C.O.M Online: A division of I.C.O.M, designed for world-wide students via the Internet.

Illusions: Though a term which can be applied to to all of magic, Illusions generally donate large effects wherein a person is used to illustrate the magic.

Impromptu: In magic, a terms that refers to effects that can be done at any time without special apparatus.

Indicator: Widely used in card magic, a card or object that can be sued to locate the selected object.

In-Jogging: The act of shifting a card or number of cards inward toward the body to facilitate a location of same.


Jinx: In magic, usually refers to a popular magician’s publication from the earlier part of the twentieth century.


Key: A list of code or prompt words used mainly in mentalism effects.

Key Card: A card used as a location device in a card routine.


Lapping: The act of dropping objects into your lap during the course of sit-down close-up magic for subsequent vanishment.

Legerdemain:  A word which translates literally to mean, ” light of hand “.  A fancy way to refer to manual manipulation.

Levitation: The act of seeming to cause an object to rise into the air without visible means of support.

Line: A scripted piece of speech used by an entertainer to give justification to a trick or routine.

Livestock:  The animals used in a magic act.  i.e  Rabbits, Doves, Ducks etc.

Load:  Items which are secretly introduced into a specific place or container for future production.

Locater: See Indicator.

Long Card:  A card which is longer than the rest in the deck.  Used as a locator card.


M.A.E.S: Acronym for the Magician’s Alliance of Easter States ™.

Magician’s Logic: Reasonings that the magician uses to persuade an audience that a given routine is fair and above board. This technique aids in misdirection and keeps the spectators from questioning certain handling in the effect.

Master Flourish: The most technically demanding of the flourish genre. Master flourishes often take years of rehearsal to perfect.

Mechanics grip: The standard way to hold a deck of card prior to dealing.

Mentalism:  The field of magic in which various information is seemingly divined purely by the power of the mind.

Mexican Turnover: A card move in which, during the process of using one card to turn another tabled card over, the cards are secretly switched.

Micro Magic:  Closer than, and more specialized than close-up magic. This is where the performer is usually working for only one or two people.

Misdirection: An action of interest capserpents the audience attention. The process of guiding the audiences attention away from the modus operandi of an effect.

Modus Operandi: In magic, a term which refers to the secret method of an effect.

Mouth Coils:  Specially made packets which will fit into a person’s mouth and allow them to extract yards and yards of  three dimensional paper streamer.

Move: A physical action used in a magical routine. A move may either be obvious or invisible depending upon the demand of the trick.


Nail Nick:  The procedure of using the edge of the thumb nail to press down upon and there-by secretly ‘nick’ or mark a card or object.

Nail Writer:  A secret device, very small, often worn under the thumb nail or on the thumb. This gimmick holds a piece of pencil lead, and allows messages to be secretly written.

Nesting/Nested: A type of gimmick where a number of identical objects are manufactured to be concealed within each other.


Occult: Subject matter dealing with the darker side of the Supernatural.

One Ahead:
 A system or principle in mental magic for discovering information before the audience is aware you are doing so.

One-Way: A term generally referring to a deck of cards of which all are identical. Made mainly for forcing purposes. Term may also be applied to the back design of certain playing cards.

OOM:  Oil of Milk.  An oily substance which, when mixed with water produces a liquid which      resembles milk.

Out-Jogging: The act of shifting a card or number of cards outwards toward from body to facilitate a location of same.

Out To Lunch:  An effect and a principle all rolled into one.  The images on a printed card, usually of business card size and held as the top card of a stack with a rubber band, magically changes.


Palming: The act the concealing a small object in the hand unaware to the audience.

Paddle Move: A valuable sleight which give the illusion of two sides of a hand-held article being identical.

Parlor Magic:  In decades past, a parlor was a room in a home in which guests were entertained.  Parlor Magic refers to the style of magic given in intimate surroundings for small groups of people.

Patter: The scripting used in a magical routine.

Penetration: A type of magic which exhibits solid-through-solid.

Platform Tricks:  Magic which must be performed on platform or stage due to the size of the equipment or the distance required to make the trick effective.

Playing Cards: The single most extensively used prop in the entire realm of magic. Originally developed in the middle ages as a form of entertainent. Others claim that they are a modernized version of the infamous “Tarot Deck”. Modern day decks contain 52 different cards not counting jokers. They come in two sizes, Bridge and Poker. Two primary back colors, red & blue.

Poker Deck: The larger of the two American standard size playing cards.

Poker Shuffle: A type of riffle shuffle used by casino dealers.

Prearrangement: To set-up a deck or other prop beforehand to facilitate a magic trick.

Presentation: The entire magical effect including, the workings, speech and staging of the magic act.

Prestidigitation: French translation for “fast fingers”. Means quite literally, ” rapid fingerwork,”.  It refers specifically to handmovement, but in modern times has come to mean magic of all kinds.

Practice: One of the most important and neglected ingredients for the successful performance of magic.

Production: The article of a number of production apparently out of thin air.

Props:  Short for the technical term derived from the theater, ” properties”…refers to any object, seen or unseen which is handled by the magician.


Q & A: A type of mental magic routine where the performer reveals information written down on small slips of paper by the audience. The information having been secretly obtained beforehand.


Reel:  A small device, spring activeated, which will retrieve or wind a length line back into it.

Release: The freeing of a number of ied or bound objects. Term used in escapes and penetration effects.

Repetition:  A ploy used to fool an audience by doing an innocent action often enough that it is not noticed when it changes into a secret move.

Retension: A charastic of human vision in which the image of an object is held by the optic nerve after it is no longer visible. A perfect example is the Retension Coin Vanish.

Reveal:  The means by which the end result of a certain effect,  such as the value of a chosen card, or the re-appearance of a coin is accomplished.

Reverse: In card magic a term used to in the indication of a selected card by magically reversing same.

Roll Down: a difficult flourish used in coin magic.

Rope Worker:  Yet another specialized act in magic.  This individual works the majority of his effects with rope…also utilizing ribbons, silks or rings to facilitate certain routines.

Roughing Fluid:  A substance which, when applied to cards causes them to slightly adhere to one another.

Ruse:  Fooling an audience by doing something openly which at the same time acts as cover for a secret move or action.

Routining: The act of combining individual magic effects to ascertain the best possible combination in an overall magic performance.

Roving: A style of performance where the entertainer strolls around to small groups of spectators exhibiting close-up magic rather than a set stand-up program.


S.A.M: Acronym for the “Society of American Magicians ™”.

Sandwiched: One card between two others, used in certain effects.

Scaling: The act of throwing cards out into an audience in such a way, and with such force that they often travel remarkable distances.  In some instances, the cards are sometimes made to circle back and return to the stage.

Seance Act: (see spirit act)

Self-Working: A misleading term used to indicate a trick which requires no sleight-of-hand.

Servante’: A secret ledge or bag used in the disposal of attainment of small object unaware to the audience.

Shaved Deck:  Deck which has been tapered at each side, making it wider at one end than at the other.  This allows specific cards turned end for end within the deck to be stripped out.

Short Card:  Playing card which has been made intentionally shorter than the rest in the deck. This card is used as a locator.

Shuttle Pass: A basic sleight in which an object in one hand is seemingly placed into the other  with a dumping or tossing motion.

Silent Act:  An act in which pantomime replaces the spoken word…usually performed to music.

Sleight: A physical move used in magic to bring about a misdirecting action.

Sleight-Of-Hand: General term for th use of sleights in the magical arts.

Simulation: Pretending something is so when it is not.

Spirit Act: The pretended use of spiritualism to seemingly contact those who have passed away.

Spot Card: Any playing card ace through ten.

Spring: A difficult flourish used to cause a deck of cards to fly from one hand to the other.

Spread: To lay a deck of cards out in a row on a table in a long even pattern.

Steal:  A term for the manner in which small objects which are attached to the body in a position of concealment are secretly obtained.

Stock: A portion or packet of cards used in a routine. A portion of a standard deck of cards.

Sucker Trick: An effect in which the spectator thinks he has figured out the secret, or caught the performer making a mistake…only to be proven wrong.

Supernatural: Subject matter dealing with the spirit world.

Suspension: Similar in concept to the levitation…but without the movement.  The object simply appears to be suspended in mid air.


Tarot Deck: An ancient deck of cards consisting of two sections. (Major & Minor Arcana). Used primarily to tell fortunes, the modern day magician often uses them to create magical effects with am occult mood. (see: Bizzare Magic)

Top of Deck: The position of the deck where the backs are uppermost.

Transposition:The act of causing one object to magically change places with another object. The act of causing an object to magically travel elsewhere.

Transformation: The act of causing one object to magically change into another object.

Trey: Another term for a three used in card games and magic.

Turnover: The act of simultaneously reversing an entire deck of cards after using the spread.

Trick: General term used to describe al forms of magic feats, stunts or experiments.

A routine that starts off as a magic trick, but winds up having a humorous conclusion that may or may or may not be magical.

Traps: Secret Compartments in the magician’s table top or passageways in the floor of a stage.

Turn-Up: To deal a number of playing cards upwards during a routine.

Tumbler: A drinking glass or large cup used in magic.


Undercut: To cut the lower portion of a deck of packet of playing cards.

Underground: A potentially popular form of entertainment or communication that is not usually considered mainstream or commercial.


Vanish: Technical term for an effect in which a person or object disappears.

Volunteer:  An audience member employed by the magician to assist during a trick.


Wand: The sign of the magician. a small hand-held rod used for misdirecting purposes as well as the production of hand-held objects.

Waterfall: A difficult flourish used to drop cards singly from one hand to another in an apparently solid ribbon.

Wax (magician’s): A tacky type of wax used for conjuring purposes.

Wiztax: Double sided tape used to mimic the effects of magician’s wax.

Working pure: Performing magic utilizing sleight-of-hand as the main form of modus-operandi.


X-Ray Vision: A term used in magic to convince the audience of the performers ability to peer through solid objects.


You-Do-As-I-Do: A premise in which the spectator mimics the actions of the magician. Often with humorous results.


Zarrow Shuffle: Named after 20th century magician who developed it.

Zinab Deck: A once popular fanning deck produced by Abbott’s Magic. No longer made.

Subject not listed? Just e-mail us and ask, or check out the Devil’s Dictionary in the Dr.Om’s Treatise on Stagecraft for Magicians Cyber-Magic Textbook ™


Author: Bobby J. Gallo


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