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An alembic
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From French alambic, from Medieval Latin alembīcus, from Arabic الإِنْبِيق (al-ʔinbīq), from Ancient Greek ἄμβιξ (ámbix, cup, cap of a still).


  • IPA(key): /əˈlɛm.bɪk/
  • (file)


alembic (plural alembics)

  1. An early chemical apparatus, consisting of two retorts connected by a tube, used to purify substances by distillation.
    • 1818, Thomas Love Peacock, Nightmare Abbey, chapter 11:
      Ideal beauty is not the mind’s creation: it is real beauty, refined and purified in the mind’s alembic, from the alloy which always more or less accompanies it in our mixed and imperfect nature.
    • 1836, Emerson, Nature, Chapter 3:
      Thus is Art, a nature passed through the alembic of man.
    • 1886, Joseph Rémi Léopold Delbœuf, What May Animals Be Taught?:
      The great physiologist Schwann, for instance, who died in 1882, maintained that there was an insurmountable barrier between us and those whom Michelet calls our inferior brethren. To him animals were alembics and electric batteries; mechanics, physics, and chemistry could account for all their manifestations.
    • 1973, Thomas Pynchon, Gravity’s Rainbow:
      We of all magical precipitates out of Europe’s groaning, clouded alembic, we are the thinnest, the most dangerous, the handiest to secular uses —


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