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From Late Latin abracadabra, a word used in magical writings, of unknown origin. Relationships have been suggested with Abraxas (a Gnostic deity), and with various Aramaic or Hebrew terms עַבְרָא כְּדַבְרָא (avra kedavra, literally “what was said has come to pass”), עַבְדָא כְּדַבְרָא (avda kedavara, literally “what was said has been done”); אַרְבַּע-אֶחַד-אַרְבַּע (arba-eḥad-arba, literally “four-one-four”), 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.
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: D. Appleton & Company, →OCLC, 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.
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.
mumbo jumbo, obscure language or technicalities, jargon — see also mumbo jumbo
Translations to be checked
- Used to indicate that a magic trick or other illusion has been performed.
- Synonym: hey presto
1971, Richard Carpenter, Catweazle and the Magic Zodiac, Harmondsworth: Puffin Books, page 49:
Next, the conjuror filled a glass with water from a big jug and then covered the tumbler with a cloth. "Abracadabra," he cried and crumpled the cloth.
used to indicate that a magic trick or other illusion has been performed
abracadabra m (plural abracadabras)
- an unspecified magical formula
- (historical) a mystical word from kabbalism
Borrowed from Latin abracadabra.
- IPA(key): /a.bra.kaˈda.bra/
- Rhymes: -abra
- Hyphenation: a‧bra‧ca‧dà‧bra
abracadabra m (invariable)
- abracadabra (mumbo-jumbo)
- abracadabra in Treccani.it – Vocabolario Treccani on line, Istituto dell'Enciclopedia Italiana
Unknown. See English abracadabra.
c. 200 CE
, Quintus Serenus Sammonicus, Liber Medicinalis
- Inscrībis chartae quod dīcitur "abracadabra",
Saepius, et subter repetis, sed dētrahe summae,
Ut magis atque magis dēsint elementa figūrīs
Singula, quae semper rapiēs, et cētera fīgēs,
dōnec in angustum redigātur littera cōnum:
Hīs līnō nexīs collum redimīre mementō.
- Write on a piece of paper the word abracadabra, repeating it below while taking away the last letter, so that a single letter is further and further lacking, until it has the shape of a cone: remember to surround the neck with linen with the paper hanging from it.
- Rhymes: -abɾɐ
- Hyphenation: a‧bra‧ca‧da‧bra
- abracadabra (used to indicate that a magic trick or other illusion has been performed)
Borrowed from French abracadabra or Italian abracadabra.
- IPA(key): /abɾakaˈdabɾa/
- Rhymes: -abɾa
- Syllabification: a‧bra‧ca‧da‧bra