From c. 1400 as "deceive, put (someone) under a spell." Especially of tricks of manual dexterity and legerdemain from mid-15c. Figurative use, of careers, husbands, etc., is by 1940. Related: Juggled; juggling.
"a juggler; one who performs feats requiring dexterity and skill, particularly of the fingers," 1843, from French prestidigitateur, a hybrid coined 1830 by Jules de Rovère (who sought a new word, "qui s'accorderait mieux à ses nobles origines" to replace escamoteur and physicien), roughly based on Latin praestigiator "juggler" (see prestigious); influenced by Italian presto "quick," a conjuror's word (see presto), and by Latin digitus "finger" (see digit).
"peripatetic quack; one who sells nostrums at fairs, etc.," in Johnson's words, "a doctor that mounts a bench in the market, and boasts his infallible remedies and cures;" 1570s, from Italian montambanco, contraction of monta in banco "quack, juggler," literally "mount on bench" (to be seen by crowd), from monta, imperative of montare "to mount" (see mount (v.)) + banco, variant of banca "bench," from a Germanic source (see bench (n.)). Figurative and extended senses, in reference to any impudent pretender or charlatan, are from 1580s. Related: Mountebankery.
"government formed by election by ballot," by 1966, from Greek psēphizein "to vote" (properly "to vote with pebbles"), from psēphos "pebble, small stone," especially as used for counting and calculating (a word of uncertain origin, perhaps related to psammos "sand"), + -cracy "rule or government by."
The common method of voting in Greek cities was by dropping pebbles in different marked urns, and thus the word for "pebble" figures largely in the ancient Greek vocabulary of democracy (e.g. isopsēphos "having an equal vote"). Also a psēphados was "a juggler." Related: Psephocrat; psephocratic.
magical formula used in conjuring, 1630s, earlier Hocas Pocas, common name of a magician or juggler (1620s); a sham-Latin invocation used by jugglers, perhaps based on a perversion of the sacramental blessing from the Mass, Hoc est corpus meum "This is my body." The first to make this speculation on its origin apparently was English prelate John Tillotson (1630-1694).
I will speak of one man ... that went about in King James his time ... who called himself, the Kings Majesties most excellent Hocus Pocus, and so was called, because that at the playing of every Trick, he used to say, Hocus pocus, tontus tabantus, vade celeriter jubeo, a dark composure of words, to blinde the eyes of the beholders, to make his Trick pass the more currantly without discovery. [Thomas Ady, "A Candle in the Dark," 1655]
Compare hiccus doccius or hiccus doctius, "formula used by jugglers in performing their feats" (1670s), also a common name for a juggler, which OED says is "conjectured to be a corruption of" Latin hicce es doctus "here is the learned man," "if not merely a nonsense formula simulating Latin." Also compare holus-bolus (adv.) "all at a gulp, all at once," which Century Dictionary calls "A varied redupl. of whole, in sham-Latin form." As a noun meaning "juggler's tricks," hocus-pocus is recorded from 1640s.