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

Definition of alchemist

: a person who studies or practices alchemy

Keep scrolling for more

Other Words from alchemist

alchemistic \ ˌal-​kə-​ˈmis-​tik How to pronounce alchemistic (audio) \ or less commonly alchemistical \ -​ti-​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

Spencer Finch: Me, Myself, and I (A Group Show): As much an alchemist as an artist, Spencer Finch harnesses the physics of light and color to forge rare perceptual elements. Ryan Kost, San Francisco Chronicle, "Ryan Kost’s off-the-radar picks, week of April 22," 20 Apr. 2018 Aristotle believed the four physical elements were changeable, and alchemists took this idea and ran with it. Meg Neal, Popular Mechanics, "The Eternal Quest for Aether, the Cosmic Stuff That Never Was," 19 Oct. 2018 If nothing else, the Cambridge Analytica has shown people what Facebook is and always has been: An alchemist that spins your data into gold. Brian Barrett, WIRED, "Mark Zuckerberg's Privacy Shell Game," 10 Apr. 2018 Much as medieval alchemists sought to transmute base metals into gold, Biver was now going to turn gold into a material more rugged, robust and hard-wearing than steel. Nick Foulkes, A-LIST, "All that Glitters: Hublot Magic Gold," 6 Apr. 2018 One of the most famed barbeque alchemists in the Carolinas recalled two years of two barbeque sauces Tuesday night for a potential food allergy problem. David J. Neal, miamiherald, "Two ingredients cause a two-year recall of two Carolina BBQ sauces | Miami Herald," 20 Mar. 2018 The visual effect is of an alchemist’s workshop masquerading as an apothecary, a Pantone showroom by way of Hogwarts, God’s own Crayola box. Mark Feeney,, "Coloring our world, from cave paintings to today," 15 Mar. 2018 Chinese alchemists are said to have invented gunpowder while testing a prescription for eternal life; Archimedes discovered principles of volume while sloshing about in his bath. Brian Handwerk, Smithsonian, "Sometimes, a Scientific “Eureka!” Moment Really Does Change The World," 7 Mar. 2018 In his own work, Mr. Blame was an alchemist of the unlikely. Matthew Schneier, New York Times, "His Name Was Blame: A Legend of London Fashion Remembered," 3 Mar. 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.

See More

First Known Use of alchemist

15th century, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for alchemist

see alchemy

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about alchemist

Dictionary Entries near alchemist








Statistics for alchemist

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for alchemist

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

See more words from the same century

Keep scrolling for more

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

Comments on alchemist

What made you want to look up alchemist? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


food or victuals

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

Farm Idioms Quiz

  • cow coming home
  • What does 'poke' refer to in the expression 'pig in a poke'?
How Strong Is Your Vocabulary?

Test your vocabulary with our 10-question quiz!

Word Winder's CrossWinder

Test Your Knowledge - and learn some interesting things along the way.

Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!