Believe it or not, abracadabra really does have a meaning. Besides hearing kids spout it when they’re pretending to play magic, or when you see a street magician pulling a bunny out of a hat, abracadabra has rather ancient origins. No matter how you look at it though, and what translation of the word you decide fits best, there’s no denying that abracadabra is a magical word.
From the Urban Dictionary, we learn: “One hypothesis about the source of the word is Aramaic: Avrah KaDabra which means I will create as I speak.” This, to me, makes the most sense. Magic is a time of creation or destruction, but even destruction can be made with magic: you create destruction. “I create as I speak” then almost sounds like the witches’ “so mote it be” or “amen” when it comes to the end of prayer. Abracadabra could just be another way of saying “so be it.” In Hebrew we see, however, that this isn’t the case. In Hebrew the word translates to “it came to pass as it was spoken.” Slightly different, but not so magical in that regards.
In regards to magic, there’s no magic more powerful than prayer. We often hear the phrase “in the name of the father, the son, and the holy spirit, amen.” If that’s not a way to seal a spell by infusing it with power, then I don’t know what magic is! By calling on a god to witness your plight, or “make it so” you’re working with some heavy mojo! On Today I Found Out we learn: “. . . the word might be derived from the Hebrew words for “father, son, and holy spirit”: “ab, ben, and ruach hakodesh” respectively.”
The diminishing power of abracadabra
A lot of magic is sympathetic magic. What is sympathetic magic? It’s similar to saying “as this word shortens, so does the illness’ grip on your body.” The first known use of abracadabra was actually in a book of medicine. “physician to the Roman emperor Caracalla, who prescribed that the sufferer from the disease wear an amulet containing the word written in the form of an inverted cone.” Urban Dictionary In this way as the word would lessen, so would the disease or the grip of the demon that was afflicting the wearer (since it was thought baneful spirits caused illness). In similar fashion, curses were thought to be repelled or destroyed in the same manner.
Interestingly enough, in Arabic we have a word that looks very similar to the killing curse in Harry Potter: Avada Kedavra. Abra Kadabra translates to “let the things be destroyed” or also “disappear like this word.” While not exactly like Avada Kedavra (though there is a spelling of abracadbra that’s startlingly close: Avrah KaDabra) there’s no denying that the two words sound very similar. We also know that JK Rowling was amazing at research and blending parts of her research and her own creations so seamlessly that you had a hard time telling one from the other. Avada Kedavra could be the wizarding version of abracadabra, just in a much more sinister fashion.