The name appears to have been derived from the Yussuf ben-Serragh, the head of the tribe in the time of Mahommed VII, who did that sovereign good service in his struggles to retain the crown of which he was three times deprived.
Nothing is known of the family with certainty; but the name is familiar from the interesting romance of Ginés Perez de Hita, Guerras civiles de Granada, which celebrates the feuds of the Abencerrages and the rival family of the Zegris, and the cruel treatment to which the former were subjected. J. P. de Florian's Gonsalve de Cordoue and Chàteaubriand's Le dernier des Abencerrages are imitations of Perez de Hita's work.
The story is told that one of the Abencerrages, having fallen in love with a lady of the royal family, was caught in the act of climbing up to her window. The king, enraged, shut up the whole family in one of the halls of the Alhambra, and ordered the Zergis to kill them all. The apartment where this is to have taken place is one of the most beautiful courts of the Alhambra, and is still called the Hall of the Abencerrages.
Many poems and plays, and one opera (Les Abencerrages, by Cherubini), but the whole story is doubtful, because the best historians do not mention it.
From an old 1911 Encyclopedia