Definition and meaning

From lat. late abracadabra; cf. gr. abβράξας abráxas ‘abraxas’.

Kabbalistic word to which magical effects are attributed-


History and origin

The origin of the word Abracadabra is not fantasy, since it was used to try to fight diseases. During the 450 BC century, the Romans suffered from a plague of malaria, which is assigned a very important role in the decline of the great Roman Empire.

Romans never imagined that the mosquito was the transmitter of the disease. For the Romans, malaria came from a magical source and as such, it must be combated in the same way. One of the ways to combat this disease is found in the medical text of the 3rd century, Quintus Serenus Sammonicus, in which the word “Abracadabra” is mentioned for the first time:

Incribis chatae, quod dicitur Abracadabra:
Saepius et subter repetas, thirst detrahe summae,
Et magis atque desint elementa figuris:
Singula quae semper rapies et coetera figes,
Donec in angustam redigatur litter conum.
His linen nexis collum redmire memento.

These instructions say that one should write the word “Abracadabra” on a piece of paper and repeat it by removing the last letter on each new line until only the letter “A” remains:

Next step, the piece of paper should be rolled up and wrapped in cloth, carrying it hanging from the neck as if it were a talisman, for a period of nine days.

After this period of time, the talisman was to be thrown into a river whose current was to the east. But if this did not work, Serenus recommended anointing the whole body with lion’s grease.


Of course, this is not the only origin that is related to this spell. Some experts find it in the Hebrew expressions, “Ab, rauch, dabar” (father, holy spirit, word) or “Abrai silk brai” (out of evil spirit). Some think abraxas is related to Abracadabra.