mid-15c., "soft mass formed by chemical manipulation," from M.L. amalgama, "alloy of mercury (esp. with gold or silver)," an alchemists' word, perhaps an alt. of L. malagma "poultice, plaster," from Gk. malagma "softening substance," from malassein "to soften," from malakos "soft." The word may have come from Gk. via Syrian Arabic al-malgham.