In Captain America: Civil War, Baron Helmut Zemo used some magic words to activate the brainwashing of the Winter Soldier. But these words seem a bit weird to me at first glance, I only remember one word which was "Homecoming", looks like a nod to the upcoming Spider-man film. But what were the whole list of activation magic words and what were they referring to?

  • From a video I watched (I can't remember which one for sure, i I did I would've left the source), some of the creators of Captain America: Civil War said that the words didn't have as much of a deeper meaning as everyone suspected. Instead they claimed it was only because the words in that language sounded cool. I don't believe this entirely, that they were saying this to keep die-hard fans from finding anything out about future MCU installments or plot points.
    – user35000
    May 24, 2016 at 23:28
  • I am late but if you google your question there are a lot of websites where people and commentors on the same websites have speculated many things.You may want to check them out. May 31, 2016 at 7:33

3 Answers 3


The trigger words, translated/subtitled from Russian into English, were:

  1. Longing
  2. Rusted
  3. Seventeen
  4. Dawn
  5. Stove
  6. Nine
  7. Kind-hearted
  8. Homecoming
  9. One
  10. Freight car

No exact explanation has been given what the words actually reference, but hypnosis typically involves words and phrases in sequences that are unlikely to be randomly said in order.

You would think that "homecoming" is an out-of-universe nod to the upcoming Spider-Man: Homecoming, but the screenwriters dismiss that that connection being made as "fairly accidentally".

Terri Schwartz: There are some very obvious setting up for Spider-Man: Homecoming in this movie, which must have been really exciting for you guys. But maybe it was because the name Spider-Man: Homecoming was just announced right before I saw this movie. The word "homecoming" popped up a couple times in this film...

Stephen McFeely: Fairly Accidentally

Additionally, Bucky fell from a freight car when he was lost and presumed dead. Finally, Bucky was born in 1917 (one, nine, seventeen)

bucky bio


As phantom42 says, the words likely have no specific meaning other than being random words that are unlikely to be said in that exact order or in the same sentence.

Buckey has basically been brainwashed by Hydra, and when issued these ten specific words, in this order, will respond to whatever command he is issued next without question, and will die trying to carry it out.

This is a reference to the novel The Manchurian Candidate, which has been made into two films (1962, and a 2004 remake). In the story, a character has been brainwashed into being controlled when a triggering item or phrase is uttered.

Tony even makes a reference to this late in the film when he encounters Cap and Buck in Siberia, when Buckey continues to keep his gun focused on Tony, causing Tony to reply:

Tony: Manchurian Candidate, you're killing me. We're on a truce. Put the gun down.

The words may have some kind of meaning revealed in later movies and material related to the MCU, but for now it's simply reusing a plot device from older films as a means to explain why Buckey can be controlled by anyone saying these 10 words, whether they're part of Hydra or not. This further explains why Buckey opts to be placed in cryo at the end of the film until they can figure out how to "de-program" him, considering himself too much of a risk until such a time.

  • "The words may have some kind of meaning revealed in later movies and material related to the MCU" – Out of universe, maybe. Some in-jokes or inside-knowledge by the writers planted as an easter egg for the audience. But in-universe it would be very stupid if those words had meaning. Meaning equals structure, structure makes the passphrase easier to crack (reduces entropy, if you are mathematically / cryptographically / information-theoretically inclined). The passphrase is basically equivalent to the nuclear launch codes. You wouldn't give them meaning, either, e.g. they are always the … May 27, 2016 at 17:19
  • … president's birthdate suffixed with the year of his election, or something like that. That would mean that once someone figures out the activation phrase for one Winter Soldier, they would be able to control all of them (remember, they were trying to create more), at least assuming that the "meaning" is somehow related to HYDRA or the particular soldier in question. (Then again, neither HYDRA nor SHIELD have so far displayed a particularly good understanding of cryptography and information security, or even security at all.) May 27, 2016 at 17:22
  • I would agree that the best practice would be to have words that lack some kind of meaning, I'm just addressing the, "What are they referring to," aspect of the question. And yet, apparently the 8-digit launch code for the US nuclear arsenal was 00000000 for 20 years. arstechnica.com/tech-policy/2013/12/…. This seems like a terrible idea until you consider the fact that, technical matters aside, who would think to guess or believe you if you said a number that simple? Also, I'm going to beat others to the Space Balls reference.
    – MattD
    May 27, 2016 at 17:38
  • dawn -> daybreak stove -> furnace kind-hearted ->benign Are the more appropriate translations according to the official tie-in comic "Spider-Man: Homecoming" Jul 26, 2020 at 8:26

These were not magic words so much as more of a passcode. Winter Sldier is what we call a sleeper agent. He was brainwashed, trained by multiple government military groups, brainwashed some more, trained as a spy and then brainwashed some more. He is the single most highly trained military figure in the world. Although the first successful Winter Soldier was a good man, due to the circumstances of his training he is a neutral party, one who will only act on behalf of the individual who speaks the combination of trigger words (in any language) as Winter Soldier will respond in whatever language he is activated in.

Theoretically every Winter Soldier would have different activation words. And as was stated in previous comments these words have no meaning what-so-ever. They are simply an uncommon series of words used, by the people who brainwashed him, as a passcode to prevent others from controlling him. (Or her if you read some comics, I believe there was a female Winter Soldier in one or two of them.)

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