A person who exercises a controlling or mesmeric influence on another, especially for a sinister purpose.
a person who manipulates or exerts excessive control over another
Early 20th century: the name of a musician in George du Maurier's novel Trilby (1894), who controls Trilby's stage singing hypnotically.
Did You Know?
In George du Maurier's 1894 novel Trilby, a young artist's model named Trilby O'Ferrall falls under the spell of Svengali, a villainous musician and hypnotist. Svengali trains Trilby's voice through hypnosis and transforms her into a singing star, subjugating her completely in the process. Svengali's maleficent powers of persuasion made such an impression on the reading public that by 1919 his name was being used generically as a term for any wickedly manipulative individual.
Origin and Etymology of svengali
Svengali, villainous hypnotist in the novel Trilby (1894) by George du Maurier