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From Abracadabra to Zombies

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In a nutshell. Abracadabra is a word sometimes used in magic tricks. People at all times have believed in the magical power of words. Words can't cure diseases or make bicycles appear out of thin air, but some words can make you feel better. And some can hurt.


Abracadabra is a word used by some magicians while doing a trick. We don't know when the word was first used. Some think it came from ancient Aramaic or Hebrew words meaning something like "I create as I speak" or "it happened as it was said."

An ancient Roman healer named Quintus Serenus Sammonicus wrote that wearing an amulet, a bracelet or necklace with words like abracadabra on it, could help heal or cure a disease.

The abracadabra amulet arranged the letters to look like this:


The belief was that the disease would shrink just as the word abracadabra shrinks from 11 letters to one. We can only guess why anyone would think words, spoken or written, could cure diseases. Though it is no secret that a few kind words when you are hurt can make you feel a little better.

Magicians may have started using abracadabra because it adds mystery while doing a trick. Words like hocus pocus and abracadabra help the magician make it look like he or she has special powers.

Words used to cast spells or bring about some magical effect are called incantations. My favorite incantation as a kid was Sticks and stones can break my bones, but words can never hurt me.

further reading

Magic Words 5 + 4+ 3

Last updated 01-Aug-2015

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