- The trick of manipulating one's voice so that it appears to come from some other quarter. The word is derived from Latin venter, belly, loqui, to speak (speaking from the belly), reflecting the erroneous notion that the voice of the ventriloquist proceeds from the stomach. Inthe Middle Ages it was often regarded as a sign of witchcraft or demonicpossession. The modern type of ventriloquist act, in which a performerspeaks without moving the lips while making his or her voice appear to issuefrom a dummy, became a popular feature of music hall and vaudeville in the later 19th century. Famous practitioners includedJules Vernon (1867 - 1937), Fred Russell (1862 - 1957), and the Great Lester (1878 - 1956).