Words of the Day: Abracadabra, Cabala, Aboveboard, Abscond

As a writer it’s important that I have a large vocabulary, so I have decided to read through the dictionary. To keep me accountable I will post my favorite words from each dictionary page. Definitions come from Webster’s New World Dictionary of American English, Third College Edition. I like word etymologies so a lot of the words of the day will be root words.

Abracadabra 1. a word supposed to have magical powers, and hence used in incantations, on amulets, etc. 2. a magic spell or formula 3. foolish or meaningless talk; gibberish

This word is right up there with ‘bibbidi-bobbidi-boo’ and ‘open sesame.’ It is thought to be late Latin, probably of Balkan origin, but assumed to be  from late Greek Abraxas (cabalistic name of the almighty God).

Cabala: 1. an occult philosophy of certain Jewish rabbis, esp. in the Middle Ages, based on a mystical interpretation of the Scriptures 2 any esoteric or secret doctrine; occultism

Aboveboard: without dishonesty of concealment.

I was surprised to learn that this word originates from card players–meaning to keep the cards in plain view  (above the ‘board’ [table]).

Abscond:  [classical Latin abscondere < ab(s)-, from , away + condere, to hide] to go away away hastily and secretly;  run away and hide, esp. in order to escape the law. Synonyms: escape, bolt, flee, decamp.

I’m most familiar with this word in association with theft, and for a long time thought it meant ‘to steal’!  “We absconded with the merchant’s most precious jewel” (The Beast’s Enchantress).