late 14c., from L. retractionem (nom. retractio), from L. retractus, pp. of retractare "revoke, cancel," from re- "back" + tractere "draw violently," frequentative of trahere "to draw" (see tract (1)). Originally the title of a book by St. Augustine, correcting his former
writings. Meaning "recantation of opinion with admission of error" is from 1540s.