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 כְּדַברָא (avda kedavara, literally “what was said has been done”); עבראכדברא (avra kedavra, literally “what has said has come to pass”); ארבע-אחד-ארבע when it is read from right to left ), but there is little supporting evidence.
abracadabra (plural abracadabras)
- 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.]
1851, Hugh A. Garland, quoting John Randolph of Roanoke, “The Virginia Convention—Every Change is Not Reform”, in The Life of John Randolph of Roanoke, volume II, New York, N.Y.: D. Appleton & Company, 200 Broadway; Philadelphia, Pa.: Geo[rge] S[wett] Appleton, 164 Chestnut-Street, OCLC 1965434, page 329:
- Where is the necessity of this provision in the Constitution? […] Can anyone believe that we, by any amendments of ours, by any of our scribbling on that parchment, by any amulet, any legerdemain—charm—Abrecadabra—of ours can prevent our sons from doing the same thing—that is, from doing as they please, just as we are doing as we please? It is impossible. Who can bind posterity?
2012 August 28, Georgina Turner, The Guardian:
- With a quiet bank holiday afternoon to fill, the Mill yesterday dug out the old magic kit, brushed the cobwebs off its top hat and practiced a few abracadabras.
- 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.
1971, Keith Thomas, Religion and the Decline of Magic, Folio Society 2012, page 335:
- Astrology was not specifically banned in the statutes against witchcraft, but so long as its technicalities remained abracadabra to the lay public there was always a risk that the practitioner might find himself arrested for sorcery.
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abracadabra m (plural abracadabras)
- “abracadabra” in le Trésor de la langue française informatisé (The Digitized Treasury of the French Language).
- abracadabra (used to indicate that a magic trick or other illusion has been performed)