an adherent of a religious sect mentioned thrice in the Qu'ran (in which they are classified with Christians, and Jews as "true believers" worth of toleration by Muslims), 1610s, from Arabic, of uncertain origin. As an adjective from 1748.

Perhaps the reference is to a Gnostic sect akin to the later Mandæans (if the word derives, as some think it does, from Arabic ch'bae "to baptize," Aramaic tzebha "he dipped, dyed"); but it has the appearance of derivation from the Semitic root of Hebrew tzabha "host" (see Sabaoth), and as the Sabians were thought in the Middle Ages to have been star-worshippers, it was interpreted as referring to the "host of heaven." Related: Sabaism.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

Examples from the Web for sabian

  • And, to complete the union of Sabian symbolisation, the serpent mingles in the general tale!

  • In the Sabian worship the rising sun was adored on its resurrection from the apparent death of its evening setting.

  • "Then I, like the wise Sabian ladies, shall save the day for peace and for Rome," she smiled archly.

  • With Druidical religious rites were blended Arkite and Sabian superstition.