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From Latin crucibulum (night-lamp, metallurgic melting-pot), apparently a derivative of crux (cross), perhaps by analogy to thūribulum (censer) and suffix -bulum.



crucible (plural crucibles)

  1. (chemistry) A cup-shaped piece of laboratory equipment used to contain chemical compounds when heating them to very high temperatures.
    • 1850, Edgar Allan Poe, “Von Kempelen and His Discovery”, in The Works of the Late Edgar Allan Poe:
      In one corner of the closet was a very small furnace, with a glowing fire in it, and on the fire a kind of duplicate crucible—two crucibles connected by a tube. One of these crucibles was nearly full of lead in a state of fusion, but not reaching up to the aperture of the tube, which was close to the brim.
  2. A heat-resistant container in which metals are melted, usually at temperatures above 500°C, commonly made of graphite with clay as a binder.
  3. The bottom and hottest part of a blast furnace; the hearth.
  4. (figuratively) A very difficult and trying experience, that acts as a refining or hardening process.
    Coordinate term: trial by fire
    • 1982 July 3, Ronald Reagan, Presidential Radio Address[1]:
      Some of our ancestors faced trials that we will never know—the snows of Valley Forge; the crucible of a bitter, bloody civil war; and the incredible hardships endured in taming a savage wilderness.