In the Harry Potter universe, a properly vocalized "Avada Kedavra" will kill a wizard's opponent on the spot. In the actual universe, a fanciful "Abracadabra" could maybe make a rabbit appear from a hat. One, deadly. The other, harmless fun. Different results, similar morphology.
That "Abracadabra" and "Avada Kedavra" sound so alike has not gone unnoticed. What if, as Reddit users jodatoufin and divsky recently wondered, their link reveals a darker history between muggles and wizards in J.K. Rowling's magical world? What if muggles and wizards once clashed in such violent ways that remnants of the killing curse linger in muggle language even as magic faded into myth?
It certainly seems plausible. Rowling stated at the 2004 Edinburgh Book Festival that she based the killing curse off "Abracadabra." In her series, we know that the International Statute of Wizarding Secrecy was enacted in 1692, when muggle-wizard relations were at an extreme low (and the Salem witch trials were beginning). Perhaps muggles' persecution of wizards at this time led some to extreme action -- using an Unforgivable curse. Word of the deadly phrase would have traveled.
Reddit user mindbleach goes a step further, positing that muggles may have bastardized the killing curse to taunt angry wizards after inventing one weapon that could outdo them: guns. Guns were already in widespread use by the 1600s, and pulling a trigger is quicker than performing a spell.
We'll give you a minute to digest that...
All of this thinking brought us to another revelation: What if "Avada Kedavra" wasn't ever supposed to be a killing curse at all? What if it was originally invented to heal people?
As J.K. Rowling explained in Edinburgh, the word "Abracadbra" comes from a real-life, ancient Aramaic spell meaning "let the thing be destroyed." But it seems the history of "Abracadabra" cannot be so simply stated. If it really did originate from Aramaic, many believe the translation would be approximately "I create what I speak." Others believe "Abracadabra" came from the Hebrew "Ha-Brachah-dabarah," meaning approximately "name of the blessed." Both are sort of the opposite of Rowling's "Avada Kedavra" intention.
Whatever its exact origins, however, we know "Abracadabra" was once inscribed on amulets to cure disease -- Rowling also referenced that fact. And here's where things get interesting.
The word was first recorded in the third century by the Roman physician Quintus Serenus Sammonicus, who recommended wearing the inscribed amulets as a treatment for fevers. People in medieval times also relied on it to treat the Bubonic plague. Supposedly, as the letters of the word slowly disappeared from the amulet line by line, so would disease disappear from the body.
It's possible, as Reddit user Canvaverbalist states, that some wizard in Rowling's universe long ago noticed that "Avada Kedavra" -- perhaps "Abracadabra" spoken with a different intonation -- healed people. It's possible that it healed by killing tiny bacteria or viruses in a person's body, like modern antibacterial and antiviral medicine. Muggles would have caught on before the Statute of Secrecy went into effect. It's possible, too, that some other, darker wizard realized making the spell stronger made it more deadly -- able to kill human beings altogether.
A full-blown killing curse would have likely been the last nail in the coffin of civilized muggle-wizard relations. Muggles went after wizards, wizards went after muggles -- and then into hiding.
And that was that.
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