Definition: Alchemy

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From Old French alkimie, arquemie (French alchimie), from Medieval Latin alchēmia, from Arabic اَلْكِيمِيَاء or al-kīmiyāʔ, from Ancient Greek χυμείᾱ or khumeíā (art of alloying metals), perhaps from Χημία or Khēmía (black earth, ancient name for Egypt) and/or χυμός or khumós (juice, sap). Compare Spanish alquimia and Italian alchimia.


alchemy (countable and uncountable, plural alchemies)

  1. The premodern and early modern study of physical changes, particularly in Europe, Arabia, and China and chiefly in pursuit of an elixir of immortality, a universal panacea, and/or a philosopher's stone able to transmute base metals into gold, eventually developing into chemistry.
    The purpose of physical alchemy—as opposed to its various spiritual pursuits—was to treat the supposed leprosity of base metals such as lead, refining and purifying them into gold.
  2. The causing of any sort of mysterious sudden transmutation.

Derived terms

  • alchemical
  • alchemist
  • alchemistic
  • alchemistical
  • alchemize
  • practical alchemy


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