Is there an Islamic (rough) equivalent to a rosary, and if so, does it have 99 beads? One of the dictionaries lists this word, “Combolio,” with the definition given by Lord Byron as “a Mohammedan rosary with ninety-nine beads.” I looked at the word and it looked fishy as hell to me. For the heck of it, I calculated the letter-value of the word, using three for “C” because that is the third letter, and so forth with the other seven letters, and found that they do total ninety-nine, my suspicion when I started. I think Byron or his friend John Cam Hobhouse thought they’d play a little joke on the world, a least inventing a spelling in English that tied in with an English numerological calculation, and possibly inventing a word for something that did not exist.

Since I couldn’t edit my first message I’ll do that here. Byron’s word had nine letters, as I posted in the title of the thread. I mistyped the word in the text of my message and then used that mistyped word to figure out there were “seven” (should have been eight) “other letters.” But the count of 99 for all nine letters is accurate.

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Islam does have a rosary with 99 beads, but it is called either a “misbaha” or a “subha.” The mystery becomes, how on earth could Lord Byron call it a “comboloio” – was this just an inside joke, playing with numerology? I think so.

Here’s the dictionary data:

1 entry found for comboloio.

\Combo*lo"io\ (k[o^]mb[-o]*l[=o]"y[-o]), n. A Mohammedan rosary, consisting of ninety-nine beads. --Byron.
Source: Webster’s Revised Unabridged Dictionary, © 1996, 1998 MICRA, Inc.