al·​che·​mist | \ ˈal-kə-mist How to pronounce alchemist (audio) \

Definition of alchemist

: a person who studies or practices alchemy

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Other Words from alchemist

alchemistic \ ˌal-​kə-​ˈmi-​stik How to pronounce alchemistic (audio) \ or less commonly alchemistical \ ˌal-​kə-​ˈmi-​sti-​kəl How to pronounce alchemistical (audio) \ adjective

Alchemist: Someone Who Transforms Things for the Better

Today we recognize alchemy as a pseudoscience, and give chemistry its rightful place as a serious scientific field, but the two terms initially overlapped in meaning before separating by the 17th century, just as astrology and astronomy did during the same period.

Alchemy and alchemist are in fact older words than chemistry and chemist in English. Alchemists believed that lead could be “perfected” into gold, that diseases could be cured, and that life could be prolonged through transmutation, or a change of some essential element into a superior form. Their secretive experiments, usually involving heat and the mixing of liquids, led to the development of pharmacology and the rise of modern chemistry.

The long route to English for alchemist began with the Greek word chēmeia, which probably came from the word chyma (“fluid”), derived from the verb chein, meaning “to pour.” It then passed to Arabic, which added its definite article al- (“the”) to the Greek root. The word then passed from Latin to French before coming to English. Some other words derived from Arabic also retain the al- in English, such as algebra, algorithm, and alcohol; in fact, the transformative liquid that was constantly being sought through experimentation by alchemists is another word with the Arabic al- prefix: elixir.

This power to transform things for the better, real or imagined, led to figurative meanings for alchemy and alchemist.

Examples of alchemist in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web According to medieval lore, alchemist Johann Georg Faust gave his soul to the devil in exchange for knowledge and satisfaction of worldly desires. Anthony Leonardi, Washington Examiner, "CNN's Chris Cuomo slams Senate Republicans by likening Trump acquittal to deal with the devil," 3 Feb. 2020 The world is awash in electronic trash, a vast problem that is a small opportunity for such junkyard alchemists as Alex Braden and Emily Francisco. Mark Jenkins, Washington Post, "In the galleries: ‘Time Capsule’ retrospective highlights jazz’s influence on Frank Stewart," 20 Dec. 2019 No coaching staff adapts to thrive better than one featuring Belichick, offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels, and offensive line alchemist Dante Scarnecchia., "There is one NFL opponent that not even His X’s and O’s Eminence Bill Belichick can game-plan for or outsmart. Injuries. No one knows when and where they’ll strike and whom they’ll strike down. The Patriots’ toughest opponent thus far this season has been the injury bug.," 25 Sep. 2019 Castle Frankenstein near Darmstadt, Germany, was the birthplace of alchemist Conrad Dippel, whose purported experiments on the human bodies may have inspired Shelley. Ashley Strickland, CNN, "Why a volcanic eruption caused a 'year without a summer' in 1816," 17 Sep. 2019 This is alchemist’s queso, unlikely elements turned to molten gold. Julia Wick, Los Angeles Times, "Newsletter: Essential California Week in Review: Stop vaping now," 28 Sep. 2019 The Big Play: Resuscitating the running game has been a theme in Fort Foxborough this week, with offensive line alchemist Dante Scarnecchia lamenting the team’s rushing struggles., "in Fort Foxborough this week, with offensive line alchemist Dante Scarnecchia lamenting the team’s rushing struggles.," 31 Oct. 2019 Under Emperor Rudolf II, a patron of the arts and sciences, Prague became a beacon for astronomers, alchemists, and philosophers. Alex Schechter, National Geographic, "Why Prague is the best place for astronomy buffs," 4 Nov. 2019 The refresh button was OpenAI’s logo, which looked to me like a mandala, the kind associated with alchemists in the Middle Ages. Rachel Aviv, The New Yorker, "The New Yorker," 25 May 2018

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'alchemist.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

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First Known Use of alchemist

15th century, in the meaning defined above

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The first known use of alchemist was in the 15th century

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Last Updated

16 Feb 2020

Cite this Entry

“Alchemist.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 22 Feb. 2020.

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More from Merriam-Webster on alchemist

Spanish Central: Translation of alchemist

Nglish: Translation of alchemist for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of alchemist for Arabic Speakers

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