Word Origins: Abracadabra


Now used in invocations by magicians and conjurers, the term “Abracadabra” was first mentioned in the writings of the Gnostic physician Quintus Serenus Scammonicus in the second century BC.  The word was believed to have special powers against fevers and other medical ailments as well as providing protection against bad luck. Metal amulets or pieces of parchment folded into a cross and inscribed with the word repeated several times with the first and last letter removed until the last line read just “A”.  It was believed that the evil force generating the illness would decrease as the word grew shorter. Once the charm was successfully used, the wearer would throw it backwards into an eastward flowing stream before sunrise.  (Source: Dictionary of Superstitions by David Pickering)