alchemy

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English[edit]

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Etymology[edit]

From Old French alkimie, arquemie (French alchimie), from Medieval Latin alkimia, from Arabic اَلْكِيمِيَاء(al-kīmiyāʾ), اَل(al-, the) + from Ancient Greek χημεία(khēmeía) or χυμεία(khumeía) originally “a mingling, infusion, juice, liquid, as extracted from gold” and later “alchemy”, perhaps from Χημία(Khēmía, black earth (ancient name for Egypt)) and/or χυμός(khumós, juice, sap). (Compare Spanish alquimia and Italian alchimia).

Pronunciation[edit]

Noun[edit]

alchemy (countable and uncountable, plural alchemies)

  1. (uncountable) The ancient search for a universal panacea, and of the philosopher's stone, that eventually developed into chemistry.
    • 1605, Francis Bacon, The Advancement of Learning, IV. (11),[1]
      And yet surely to alchemy this right is due, that it may be compared to the husbandman whereof Æsop makes the fable; that, when he died, told his sons that he had left unto them gold buried underground in his vineyard; and they digged over all the ground, and gold they found none; but by reason of their stirring and digging the mould about the roots of their vines, they had a great vintage the year following: so assuredly the search and stir to make gold hath brought to light a great number of good and fruitful inventions and experiments, as well for the disclosing of nature as for the use of man’s life.
    • 2014 June 21, “Magician’s brain”, in The Economist, volume 411, number 8892:
      The [Isaac] Newton that emerges from the [unpublished] manuscripts is far from the popular image of a rational practitioner of cold and pure reason. The architect of modern science was himself not very modern. He was obsessed with alchemy.
  2. (countable) The causing of any sort of mysterious sudden transmutation.
    • c. 1599, William Shakespeare, Julius Caesar, Act I, Scene 3,[2]
      O, he sits high in all the people’s hearts:
      And that which would appear offence in us,
      His countenance, like richest alchemy,
      Will change to virtue and to worthiness.
    • 1640, George Herbert, Jacula Prudentum; or, Outlandish Proverbs, Sentences, etc., in The Remains of that Sweet Singer of the Temple George Herbert, London: Pickering, 1841, p. 143,[3]
      No alchymy to saving.
    • 1674, John Milton, Paradise Lost, Book 2,[4]
      Then of their session ended they bid cry
      With trumpet’s regal sound the great result:
      Toward the four winds four speedy Cherubim
      Put to their mouths the sounding alchemy,
      By herald’s voice explained; the hollow Abyss
      Heard far and wide, and all the host of Hell
      With deafening shout returned them loud acclaim.
    • 1840, Percy Bysshe Shelley, “A Defence of Poetry,”[5]
      [Poetry] transmutes all that it touches, and every form moving within the radiance of its presence is changed by wondrous sympathy to an incarnation of the spirit which it breathes: its secret alchemy turns to potable gold the poisonous waters which flow from death through life; it strips the veil of familiarity from the world, and lays bare the naked and sleeping beauty, which is the spirit of its forms.
    • 2016, Boris Johnson
      There is such a rich thesaurus now of things that I have said that have been, one way or another, through what alchemy I do not know, somehow misconstrued, that it would really take me too long to engage in a full global itinerary of apology to all concerned.
  3. (computing, slang, countable) Any elaborate transformation process or algorithm.

Derived terms[edit]

Translations[edit]

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See also[edit]

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