One of the mysteries of the English language finally explained.
A member of a small religious sect in North Africa, active in the 4th cent., for whom, according to St Augustine, marriage was compulsory but its consummation forbidden, after the supposed example of Abel (no children of whom are mentioned in the Bible).
Late 16th century; earliest use found in Thomas Rogers (c1553–1616), religious controversialist and Church of England clergyman. From post-classical Latin Abeloitae, plural from Abel, the name of the brother of Cain, one of the sons of Adam and Eve + -itae, after Abeloim (plural), in same sense, form showing the Hebrew masculine plural ending -īm.
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