Alchemy



a form of chemistry and speculative philosophy practiced in the Middle Ages and the Renaissance and concerned principally with discovering methods for transmuting baser metals into gold and with finding a universal solvent and an elixir of life.
any magical power or process of transmuting a common substance, usually of little value, into a substance of great value.
Contemporary Examples

Take Larry David, who recently walked into alchemy restaurant in Edgartown following those rules closely.
Obama Style on Martha’s Vineyard Elizabeth Gates August 11, 2009

Sarah Norris on the alchemy of being young and literary and finding your way in New York.
All the Happy/Sad Young Literary Women Sarah Norris June 14, 2010

What will be the alchemy of Cowell, Randy Jackson, Kara DioGuardi, and Ellen DeGeneres this season?
American Idol at a Crossroads Richard Rushfield January 10, 2010

There is a sort of alchemy of the masala in some ways, and that journey is parallel to the emotional journey he takes.
Today’s Special Spices Up the Big Screen Shefali Kulkarni November 22, 2010

Her books include The alchemy of Race and Rights; The Rooster’s Egg; and Seeing a ColorBlind Future: The Paradox of Race.
Why Obama Isn’t America’s First Black President Patricia J. Williams November 7, 2008

Historical Examples

I should lack the alchemy by which I now infuse into my world light, colour, and the Protean spark.
The World I Live In Helen Keller

“Look in your mirror for the alchemy needed there,” he bade her.
The Historical Nights’ Entertainment Rafael Sabatini

The language employed by Dr. Priestley carries us back to the time when chemistry was beginning to emerge from alchemy.
A Century of Science and Other Essays John Fiske

“It is not an alchemy in which myself I dabble,” he said slowly.
The Historical Nights’ Entertainment Rafael Sabatini

He published several pieces bearing on medicine, astrology and alchemy, and attacking the system of Paracelsus.
Encyclopaedia Britannica, 11th Edition, Volume 9, Slice 7 Various

noun (pl) -mies
the pseudoscientific predecessor of chemistry that sought a method of transmuting base metals into gold, an elixir to prolong life indefinitely, a panacea or universal remedy, and an alkahest or universal solvent
a power like that of alchemy: her beauty had a potent alchemy
n.

mid-14c., from Old French alchimie (14c.), alquemie (13c.), from Medieval Latin alkimia, from Arabic al-kimiya, from Greek khemeioa (found c.300 C.E. in a decree of Diocletian against “the old writings of the Egyptians”), all meaning “alchemy.” Perhaps from an old name for Egypt (Khemia, literally “land of black earth,” found in Plutarch), or from Greek khymatos “that which is poured out,” from khein “to pour,” related to khymos “juice, sap” [Klein, citing W. Muss-Arnolt, calls this folk etymology]. The word seems to have elements of both origins.

Mahn … concludes, after an elaborate investigation, that Gr. khymeia was probably the original, being first applied to pharmaceutical chemistry, which was chiefly concerned with juices or infusions of plants; that the pursuits of the Alexandrian alchemists were a subsequent development of chemical study, and that the notoriety of these may have caused the name of the art to be popularly associated with the ancient name of Egypt. [OED]

The al- is the Arabic definite article, “the.” The art and the name were adopted by the Arabs from Alexandrians and thence returned to Europe via Spain. Alchemy was the “chemistry” of the Middle Ages and early modern times; since c.1600 the word has been applied distinctively to the pursuit of the transmutation of baser metals into gold, which, along with the search for the universal solvent and the panacea, were the chief occupations of early chemistry.

alchemy
(āl’kə-mē)
A medieval philosophy and early form of chemistry whose aims were the transmutation of base metals into gold, the discovery of a cure for all diseases, and the preparation of a potion that gives eternal youth. The imagined substance capable of turning other metals into gold was called the philosophers’ stone.

Our Living Language : Because their goals were so unrealistic, and because they had so little success in achieving them, the practitioners of alchemy in the Middle Ages got a reputation as fakers and con artists. But this reputation is not fully deserved. While they never succeeded in turning lead into gold (one of their main goals), they did make discoveries that helped to shape modern chemistry. Alchemists invented early forms of some of the laboratory equipment used today, including beakers, crucibles, filters, and stirring rods. They also discovered and purified a number of chemical elements, including mercury, sulfur, and arsenic. And the methods they developed to separate mixtures and purify compounds by distillation and extraction are still important.

alchemy [(al-kuh-mee)]

A science (no longer practiced) that sought to transform one chemical element into another through a combination of magic and primitive chemistry. Alchemy is considered to be the ancestor of modern chemistry.

Note: The search for the philosopher’s stone that would change lead and other base metals into gold was part of alchemy.

Note: Today, alchemy is associated with wizards, magic, and the search for arcane knowledge.

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  • Alchemise

    to change by or as by ; transmute: to alchemize lead into gold. verb (transitive) to alter (an element, metal, etc) by alchemy; transmute

  • Alchemize

    to change by or as by ; transmute: to alchemize lead into gold. verb (transitive) to alter (an element, metal, etc) by alchemy; transmute



  • Alchemist

    a person who is versed in or practices . a comedy (1610) by Ben Jonson. Contemporary Examples I feel like they are the alchemist of the tuber world; they make everything from smooth, soft purees to beautiful crunchy pickles. Fresh Picks Eli Kirshtein February 22, 2010 Well, he was no Svengali, no alchemist and, obviously, […]

  • Alchemistic

    a form of chemistry and speculative philosophy practiced in the Middle Ages and the Renaissance and concerned principally with discovering methods for transmuting baser metals into gold and with finding a universal solvent and an elixir of life. any magical power or process of transmuting a common substance, usually of little value, into a substance […]



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