Meaning of “Abracadabra”

This is a meaningless phrase spoken by magicians. Magicians use ‘abracadabra’ when they play tricks on people and while performing various magical feats in the arena. This expression is also used when something seems magical. In most of the cases, this is used to scorn some ideas which are not understandable. It might have been derived from ‘Avra kadavra’, a phrase from Aramaic language. It means ‘it will be created in my words’.

Origin of “Abracadabra”

The phrase’ origin is unsure, and there is no verifiable fact about its originator. However, some are of the view that a Roman writer, Serenus Sammonicus, has coined this word in the second century, but there is no credible source. It is also assumed that the Greek word ‘abraxas’ is close to abracadabra. It has also been linked to Hebrew with meanings close to the father, the son and the holy spirit but these are just suppositions. Similar to other origins, there is no written evidence to support these theories.

A written reference has been found in The Troublesome Voyage of Capt. Edward Fenton, a book by Eva Rimmington written in 1582 where this word has been used in its present spellings as “abracadabra.” Another use has been found in Daniel Defoe, a famous writer who used this word in the Journal of the Plague Year, 1722. He has also used the word in the same spellings and meanings.

Examples from Literature

Example #1

Abracadabra by Patti Masterman

“While the audience searches for what is known,
The stars wander where time has blown.

We are lost, we are found;
Not one can do the sums.
In a lucid dream,
It will all come undone.

There is nothing to find; there is nothing to see,
The Magician steps back, with a flourish of cape:

Nothing new is under the moon,
Just graves and shadows and resting clouds;
So give us one day, untied from the rest-

Abracadabra- only death is allowed.”

Patti Masterman is an American poet of the 21st Century. This poem ‘Abracadabra’ discusses the situation of confusion when a magician starts performing magic. Nobody is certain about what is done or what is undone. However, the poet is sure that there is nothing new, as the people have seen everything. She has used the word ‘Abracadabra’ in the last line to show that the world is the same except this magic.

Example #2

Abracadabra: The Story of Magic Through the Ages by HP Newquist

As the use of this word in the title suggests that HP Newquist has done a spectacular job of jotting down the history of magic. This is a nonfiction narrative. The author not only explains the history of great magicians and magic stories but also describes magic tricks in detail. The oracle of Egypt and wizards of Europe, including Criss Angel and Houdini; HP Newquist has reviewed everything that has become popular, including the tricks by illusionists. The use of the word “abracadabra” in the title shows that it is related to magic, its history, and practitioners.

Example #3

Abracadabra by David Kranes

It is an excellent novel by David Kranes in the noir genre that delights its readers as well as put them on high alert about the presence and nature of evil. Mark Goodson, a married man, happens to disappear in a magic act and turns into a professional soccer player Elko Wells. He then narrates his story with twists and turns. Following his career, he, with Bloody Marys, opens an agency to find missing persons and starts his intriguing business of finding disappeared people. The use of the word “abracadabra” in the title of the novel suggests that it is about magic.

Example #4

Abracadabra by Steve Miller Band

I heat up, I can’t cool down
You got me spinning
‘Round and ‘round
‘Round and ‘round and ‘round it goes
Where it stops nobody knows
Every time you call my name
I heat up like a burning flame
Burning flame full of desire
Kiss me baby, let the fire get higher
Abra abracadabra
I wanna reach out and grab ya
You make me hot, you make me sigh
You make me laugh, you make me cry
Keep me burning for your love
With the touch of a velvet glove
Abra abracadabra
I wanna reach out and grab ya

The above song’s lyrics touch upon the theme of love. The singer expresses that every time he meets his beloved or sees her, he becomes mad as if she has used some magic on him. The use of the word “abracadabra” suggests that he thinks that he is living in a magical world.

Examples in Literature as Literary Devices

Example #1: “He is speaking gibberish like abracadabra and people might think of him as a real magician. However, in reality, he is a mentally deranged person.” Here the word “abracadabra” has been used as a simile as the word “like” suggests.

Example #2: “His abracadabra has made various people gathered around him in the illusion that he is going to do some magic.”

Example #3: “He is certainly one of the real magicians I have seen. As soon as he said – Abracadabra, the entire audience was spellbound even before they saw him.”

Example #4: “Johnson grew into a great giant just like the popular magician Abracadabra.”

Example #5: “Okay, here it is! I am going to wave my wand and say ‘abracadabra.’ Then you will see a rabbit jump out of the hat.”