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alchemy

[al-kuh-mee] /ˈæl kə mi/
noun, plural alchemies for 2.
1.
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.
2.
any magical power or process of transmuting a common substance, usually of little value, into a substance of great value.
Origin
1325-1375
1325-1375; earlier alchimie < Old French alquemie < Medieval Latin alchymia < Arabic al the + kīmiyā' < Greek kēmeía transmutation; replacing Middle English alconomye, equivalent to alk(imie) + (astr)onomye astronomy
Related forms
alchemic
[al-kem-ik] /ælˈkɛm ɪk/ (Show IPA),
alchemical, alchemistic
[al-kuh-mis-tik] /ˌæl kəˈmɪs tɪk/ (Show IPA),
alchemistical, adjective
alchemically, adverb
Dictionary.com Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2014.
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Examples from the web for alchemy
  • The processes of alchemy were usually expressed in allegorical symbols.
  • Surely we knew about saliva and its emotionally triggered alchemy.
  • It's the same transition that let us move from alchemy to atomic physics.
  • Through a process of legal alchemy known as double billing, lawyers can make two into four.
  • This is a stellar study of the alchemy of man and nature.
  • Attitudes so deeply rooted, so habitual and uncriticized, are not to be transformed by an alchemy of good intentions.
  • But he fails to perform the literary alchemy that transforms information into a believable plot and compelling characters.
  • Let's just hope he doesn't try to use alchemy to solve our economic problems.
  • But blending fashion with celebrity obsession seems like a perfect alchemy.
  • He also has scores of old books, many on chemistry and alchemy.
British Dictionary definitions for alchemy

alchemy

/ˈælkəmɪ/
noun (pl) -mies
1.
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
2.
a power like that of alchemy: her beauty had a potent alchemy
Derived Forms
alchemic (ælˈkɛmɪk), alchemical, alchemistic, adjective
Word Origin
C14 alkamye, via Old French from Medieval Latin alchimia, from Arabic al-kīmiyā', from al the + kīmiyā' transmutation, from Late Greek khēmeia the art of transmutation
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for 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.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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alchemy in Science
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.
The American Heritage® Science Dictionary
Copyright © 2002. Published by Houghton Mifflin. All rights reserved.
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alchemy in Culture
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.
The American Heritage® New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, Third Edition
Copyright © 2005 by Houghton Mifflin Company.
Published by Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved.
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