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

Definition of alchemist

: a person who studies or practices alchemy

Other Words from alchemist

alchemistic \ ˌal-​kə-​ˈmi-​stik How to pronounce alchemist (audio) \ or less commonly alchemistical \ ˌal-​kə-​ˈmi-​sti-​kəl How to pronounce alchemist (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 Accentuate its already alluring scent by layering with perfumed oils from the same line and allow yourself to truly embrace the alchemist within. Grooming Playbook, The Salt Lake Tribune, 11 May 2022 Leaders of Transformation Are Shape-Shifters Imagine Zelensky as an alchemist, changing form in plain sight. Erica Ariel Fox, Forbes, 19 Mar. 2022 The film follows a young woman named Recent, an alchemist who belongs to a band of grifters called the Famlee, who travel the countryside cheating peasants out of their land. The New Yorker, 4 Mar. 2022 To better understand this, think of a fairy-tale kingdom where the royal alchemist succeeded in turning lead into gold, and the delighted king ordered the royal mint to smelt more coins with it. Robinson Meyer, The Atlantic, 2 Feb. 2022 Smith, leading a band that also features Puerto Rican saxophone dynamo Miguel Zenon, is a skilled aural alchemist. George Varga, San Diego Union-Tribune, 24 Dec. 2021 Speaking Tuesday at the APOS India conference, Nair described the strategy as a akin to being an alchemist. Patrick Frater, Variety, 23 Nov. 2021 Jacques Grange is a design alchemist, deftly creating interiors that never repeat themselves. Blue Carreon, Forbes, 26 Oct. 2021 Hublot just solidified itself as a metal alchemist. Demetrius Simms, Robb Report, 15 Sep. 2021 See More

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.

First Known Use of alchemist

15th century, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for alchemist

Middle English alkemyste, alkamystre, borrowed from Middle French and Medieval Latin; Middle French alkemiste, arquemiste, borrowed from Medieval Latin alchemista, alkimista, from alkimia, alchymia alchemy + -ista -ist entry 1

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

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Last Updated

17 May 2022

Cite this Entry

“Alchemist.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 19 May. 2022.

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More from Merriam-Webster on alchemist

Nglish: Translation of alchemist for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of alchemist for Arabic Speakers


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