noun, plural al·che·mies for 2, 3.
- alchemist, the,
Origin of alchemy
Examples from the Web for alchemical
Alchemical songs that achieve pop universality through personal specificity.Remembering Weezer’s ‘The Blue Album,’ A Garage Rock Classic, on Its 20th Anniversary|Andrew Romano|May 10, 2014|DAILY BEAST
The Garden of Cyrus, with its arcane explorations of botany and geometry, may as well be an alchemical treatise or a grimoire.Halloween Read: Thomas Browne’s Eerie Premonition of His Burial|Stefan Beck|October 30, 2012|DAILY BEAST
Here he met the apothecary George Starkey, and in his presence performed the alchemical feat of making gold (p. 179).Poems of Henry Vaughan, Silurist, Volume II|Henry Vaughan
Alchemical books abound in quotations from the writings of Geber.
These thoughts went so far as to connect the new marvel with alchemical wonder tales.
Similarly the alchemical Elements and Principles were useful class-marks.
A lute lay beside him on the floor, and there were several astrological and alchemical implements within reach.Windsor Castle|William Harrison Ainsworth
noun plural -mies
Word Origin for alchemy
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.
A Closer Look
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.
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.