- A magical charm or incantation having the power to ward off disease or disaster.
- Foolish or unintelligible talk.
Used by a magician just before completing a trick or an illusion.
Origin of abracadabra Late Latin magical formula of unknown origin Word History:
The word abracadabra
is first attested in a poem about medical matters attributed to the Roman author Quintus Serenus Sammonicus, who lived around the second century AD. In one of the poem's prescriptions for magical cures, the letters of the word abracadabra
are written on papyrus in an inverted triangle and worn as an amulet around the neck. The top line of letters in the triangle consists of the word abracadabra,
and one letter is subtracted from the end of this word in each line below it: abracadabr, abracadab, abracada,
and so forth. At last only the letter a
remains to form the vertex of the triangle. As the letters disappear, so supposedly does the disease or trouble.
- A use of the mystical term ‘abracadabra’, supposed to work as part of a healing charm or a magical spell; any spell or incantation making use of the word. [from 16th c.]
- Mumbo-jumbo; obscure language or technicalities; jargon. [from 19th c.]
- I don’t know all the theoretical abracadabra about how it works, I’m only its pilot.
- Used to indicate that a magic trick or other illusion has been performed. [from 19th c.]
From Late Latin abracadabra, a word used in magical writings, of uncertain origin. Relationships have been suggested with Abraxas (a Gnostic deity), and with various Aramaic or Hebrew terms (עַבְדָא כְּדַ ברָא, avda ked vara; “what was said has been done”; עבראכדברא, avra kedavra; “what has said has come to pass”; ארבע-אחד-ארבע when it is read from right to left ), but there is little supporting evidence.