Abecedarians were a 16th century German sect of Anabaptists who effected an absolute disdain for all human knowledge, contending that God would enlighten his elect from within themselves, giving them knowledge of necessary truths by visions and ecstasies, with which human learning would interfere..

They rejected every other means of instruction, and claimed that to be saved one must even be ignorant of the first letters of the alphabet; whence their name, A-B-C-darians. They also considered the study of theology as a species of idolatry, and regarded learned men who did any preaching as falsifiers of God's word.

Nicholas Storch led this sect, preaching that the teaching of the Holy Spirit was all that was necessary. Andreas Karlstadt adopted these views, abandoned his title of doctor and became a street porter.

Later uses

  • University of North Carolina used the term to name a study of early childhood education.

In a 19th-century American one-room school, an abecedarian or a-b-c-darian was a student in the youngest group of scholars in the typical one-room school of 19th-century America, so-called because they were just learning their “a-b-cs.”

In his autobiographical reminiscences on his school days, Warren Burton recounted that he “was three years and a half old when I first entered the Old School-house as an abecedarian.”

Noah Webster’s early school dictionary contains the following entry for abecedarian: A-be-ce-da'-ri-an, n. One who teaches or is learning the alphabet.

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