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Mesmerism vs. Hypnotism — What's the Difference?

Edited by Tayyaba Rehman — By Fiza Rafique — Updated on September 27, 2023
Mesmerism is an old therapeutic technique believed to use magnetic forces, named after Franz Mesmer, while hypnotism involves inducing a trance-like state for suggestibility or therapeutic purposes.
Mesmerism vs. Hypnotism — What's the Difference?

Difference Between Mesmerism and Hypnotism


Key Differences

Mesmerism is rooted in the theories of Franz Mesmer, who posited that an invisible magnetic fluid exists in all living beings. On the other hand, hypnotism is a broader term that encompasses the induction of a trance-like state in an individual to tap into their subconscious mind.
Mesmer believed that illnesses arose from imbalances in this magnetic fluid and that they could be cured by manipulating these imbalances. In contrast, hypnotism doesn't rely on the concept of magnetic forces but focuses on the power of suggestion and the subconscious mind.
Over time, the practices and ideas behind mesmerism gave way to the more modern and scientifically studied practices of hypnotism. While both mesmerism and hypnotism aim to achieve altered states of consciousness, the reasons and methodologies behind them differ considerably.
Mesmerism, with its origins in the 18th century, often involved the mesmerist making passes over the patient's body. Hypnotism, as it's understood today, often involves verbal suggestions and can be used for therapeutic reasons or entertainment.
In summary, while mesmerism and hypnotism both deal with altered states of consciousness and suggestibility, they stem from different historical contexts and theories about their mechanisms.

Comparison Chart


Franz Mesmer in the 18th century
Broad concept evolving over time

Theory Behind

Magnetic forces in living beings
Power of suggestion and the subconscious


Therapeutic, based on magnetic imbalances
Therapeutic, entertainment, suggestibility


Physical passes over the body
Verbal suggestions, visual cues

Current Scientific Acceptance

Largely debunked
Recognized, especially in therapeutic contexts

Compare with Definitions


A practice named after its founder, Franz Mesmer.
The term mesmerism is derived from its originator's last name.


A method utilized for therapeutic or entertainment purposes.
Stage hypnotism shows are popular in some entertainment venues.


A method believed to balance an invisible magnetic fluid.
Franz Mesmer's patients often reported feeling better after mesmerism sessions.


Rooted in the power of suggestion and mental focus.
Hypnotism requires the participant to concentrate and relax deeply.


A technique involving physical gestures over a patient's body.
The practitioner used mesmerism by making hand motions in the air.


The practice of making someone highly suggestible.
Under hypnotism, he believed he was a bird.


An 18th-century therapeutic technique using purported magnetic forces.
Many considered mesmerism a controversial and mysterious practice in its time.


A technique to tap into an individual's subconscious mind.
Through hypnotism, she recalled memories she had forgotten.


An early precursor to modern hypnotic practices.
Some view mesmerism as the foundation upon which modern hypnotism was built.


The act of inducing a trance-like state in an individual.
He learned hypnotism to help people overcome their phobias.


A strong or spellbinding appeal; fascination.


The theory or practice of inducing hypnosis.


Hypnotic induction believed to involve animal magnetism.


The act of inducing hypnosis.




The art of inducing hypnosis.


The method or power of gaining control over someone's personality or actions, as in hypnosis or suggestion.


A form of sleep or trance, in some respects resembling somnambulism, but brought on by artificial means, in which there is an unusual suspension of some powers, and an unusual activity of others, especially a heightened susceptibility to suggestion. It is induced by an action upon the nerves, through the medium of the senses, by causing the subject to gaze steadily at a very bright object held before the eyes, or on an oscillating object, or by pressure upon certain points of the surface of the body, usually accompanied by the speaking of the hypnotist in quiet soothing tones. Called also hypnosis.


The state induced by hypnotic methods (especially that of Mesmer himself).


The science which deals with the induction and properties of the hypnotic state.


An earlier name for hypnosis or hypnotism, the art of inducing an extraordinary or abnormal state of the nervous system, in which the actor claims to control the actions, and communicate directly with the mind, of the recipient. It is believed to be a state between sleep and wakefulness, in which a person is more susceptible to suggestion than when awake. See Animal magnetism, under Magnetism.


The act of inducing hypnosis


The act of inducing hypnosis

Common Curiosities

Is mesmerism scientifically accepted today?

No, mesmerism is largely debunked. Hypnotism is recognized, especially for therapeutic purposes.

Who is the founder of mesmerism?

Franz Mesmer is credited with founding mesmerism. Hypnotism, however, doesn't have a single founder.

Was Franz Mesmer a hypnotist?

No, Franz Mesmer practiced mesmerism. However, his ideas paved the way for modern hypnotism.

Are the techniques of mesmerism and hypnotism similar?

While both deal with altered states, mesmerism involves physical gestures, while hypnotism often uses verbal suggestions.

Can hypnotism help with pain management?

Yes, hypnotism has been used therapeutically, including for pain management. Mesmerism was also believed to help ailments.

Can hypnotism be used for entertainment?

Yes, hypnotism can be used for both therapeutic and entertainment purposes, unlike mesmerism.

Is the trance state in both practices the same?

Both aim for altered consciousness, but the theories and methods behind mesmerism and hypnotism differ.

How did mesmerists believe they cured patients?

Mesmerists believed they balanced an invisible magnetic fluid in patients, a theory not present in hypnotism.

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Author Spotlight

Written by
Fiza Rafique
Fiza Rafique is a skilled content writer at, where she meticulously refines and enhances written pieces. Drawing from her vast editorial expertise, Fiza ensures clarity, accuracy, and precision in every article. Passionate about language, she continually seeks to elevate the quality of content for readers worldwide.
Tayyaba Rehman is a distinguished writer, currently serving as a primary contributor to As a researcher in semantics and etymology, Tayyaba's passion for the complexity of languages and their distinctions has found a perfect home on the platform. Tayyaba delves into the intricacies of language, distinguishing between commonly confused words and phrases, thereby providing clarity for readers worldwide.

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