There are various high level spells named "Power Word: X". They are all verbal-only spells (except Power Word: Heal), and tend to have the following text in them(...except Power Word: Heal):

You speak a word of power that [has the effect of the spell's name]

Assume for the purpose of the question that the rules from Xanathar's Guide on spell identification are in use.

Do these properties (verbal only, verbal component is a single word rather than multiple) make these spells unusually easy to identify - not as a specific spell, but as "one of the Power Word spells"?

In other words, consider the following scenario:

Spellcaster A is facing off against spellcaster B. On B's turn, B utters a single arcane word, and seems to not be using any somatic or material components for their spell.

Is it reasonable for A to deduce, without the use of a reaction, "ah, I reckon the single word and nothing else means it's one of the Power Word spells. I had better Counterspell using a high level slot"?

  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ I fear that the answer to the question posed in the last paragraph is different from the answer to your main question. Or is that supposed to be the main issue? \$\endgroup\$
    – Szega
    May 22, 2020 at 0:15
  • \$\begingroup\$ Related: Command and Suggestion \$\endgroup\$
    – MivaScott
    May 23, 2020 at 2:39

1 Answer 1


Not especially, no.

A cursory inspection reveals sixty spells with only a verbal component, four of which are Power Word: Something spells.

Even if you know your opponent's a wizard, say, that still leaves twenty-eight spells, two of which are PW:X spells.

There are plenty of verbal-only spells out there, in other words. And we have simply no idea for almost all of them what that verbal component might be. One could possibly infer, by inclusion and omission in the various descriptions, that only the PW:X spells are single-word spells, but that's nowhere stated. (And is even contradicted by plenty of older lore examples.)

By the way: look at that list of wizards' verbal-only spells. Gag your captive wizards, people!

  • 3
    \$\begingroup\$ It also might be worth noting that, if a spell is indeed a "single-word spell," there's no way to confirm that (without understanding the magical word in question) casting is complete. After all, every spell with a Verbal component starts with one word. \$\endgroup\$ May 22, 2020 at 1:36
  • \$\begingroup\$ Also, Donaudampfschifffahrtselektrizitätenhauptbetriebswerkbauunterbeamtengesellschaft and Pneumonoultramicroscopicsilicovolcanoconiosis Are both single words in German and English respectively \$\endgroup\$
    – Dale M
    May 22, 2020 at 6:57

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