Reading "The Adventures of Tom Sawyer: In English and Spanish," there is a sentence in English:

A phrenologist and a mesmerizer came...

In the corresponding Spanish section, the word "mesmerizer" is translated as "magnetizador."

I wondered about this choice, and found this:

So "magnetizador" is apparently a synonym of "hypnotizador" (hypnotizer), which makes sense as a translation of "mesmerizer" (and the account in the book).

But what's the "magnetizing" connection? What is the hypnotizer or mesmerizer supposedly magnetizing?

  • 2
    Mesmerizing practices were condemned as fraud because of it worked by the power of suggestion, so "animal magnetism” was in fact "hypnosis induction".
    – cocteau
    Commented Oct 17, 2021 at 23:43
  • You might be trying to read the word "magnetize" too literally in English. Yes, magnetism is a physical attribute, whereas mesmerize is a psychological one in English, but it doesn't have to be in other languages. Words with similar meanings have evolved in different ways for different languages.
    – Karlomanio
    Commented Oct 27, 2021 at 18:26

1 Answer 1


Mesmerism and magnetism:

According to Wikipedia (emphasis mine):

Franz Anton Mesmer (23 May 1734 – 5 March 1815) was a German physician with an interest in astronomy. He theorized the existence of a natural energy transference occurring between all animated and inanimate objects; this he called "animal magnetism", sometimes later referred to as mesmerism. Mesmer's theory attracted a wide following between about 1780 and 1850, and continued to have some influence until the end of the 19th century.
In 1774, Mesmer produced an "artificial tide" in a patient, Francisca Österlin, who suffered from hysteria, by having her swallow a preparation containing iron and then attaching magnets to various parts of her body. She reported feeling streams of a mysterious fluid running through her body and was relieved of her symptoms for several hours. Mesmer did not believe that the magnets had achieved the cure on their own. He felt that he had contributed animal magnetism, which had accumulated in his work, to her. He soon stopped using magnets as a part of his treatment.

Also Meriam-Webster dictionary:

Experts can't agree on whether Franz Anton Mesmer (1734-1815) was a quack or a genius, but all concede that the late 18th-century physician's name is the source of the word mesmerize. In his day, Mesmer was the toast of Paris, where he enjoyed the support of notables including Queen Marie Antoinette. He treated patients with a force he termed "animal magnetism." Many believe that what he actually used was what we now call "hypnotism." Mesmer's name was first applied to a technique for inducing hypnosis by one of his students in 1784.

On magnetizers Wikipedia:

Animal magnetism, also known as mesmerism, was the name given by German doctor Franz Mesmer in the 18th century to what he believed to be an invisible natural force (Lebensmagnetismus) possessed by all living things, including humans, animals, and vegetables. He believed that the force could have physical effects, including healing, and he tried persistently but without success to achieve scientific recognition of his ideas.
The vitalist theory attracted numerous followers in Europe and the United States and was popular into the 19th century. Practitioners were often known as magnetizers rather than mesmerists. It was an important specialty in medicine for about 75 years from its beginnings in 1779, and continued to have some influence for another 50 years.

And for the relation of "mesmerism" with "hypnosis":

In 1843, the Scottish doctor James Braid proposed the term "hypnotism" for a technique derived from animal magnetism; today the word "mesmerism" generally functions as a synonym of "hypnosis".

Answering @Lambie's comment asking how did it get into Spanish: it is all in the DLE:


1. m. Doctrina del magnetismo animal, expuesta en la segunda mitad del siglo XVIII por el médico alemán Mesmer.


1. m. y f. Persona o cosa que magnetiza.


2. tr. Producir a alguien sueño magnético por fascinación, hipnotizar.

  • Great, but how did it go into Spanish?
    – Lambie
    Commented Oct 20, 2021 at 15:21
  • @Lambie: it's all in the DLE - updated the answer to include it
    – user31058
    Commented Oct 20, 2021 at 19:05
  • Great. You can add stuff with saying edit. I mean you are not obliged to say it. :)
    – Lambie
    Commented Oct 20, 2021 at 21:01

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