alembic

noun alem·bic \ ə-ˈlem-bik \

Definition of alembic

1 :an apparatus used in distillation
2 :something that refines or transmutes as if by distillation
  • philosophy … filtered through the alembic of Plato's mind
  • —B. T. Shropshire

alembic was our Word of the Day on 07/10/2008. Hear the podcast!

Did You Know?

The alembic is a kind of still that has been used since ancient times and continues to be used even today in the production of cognac, a distinctive brandy distilled from white wine in western France. In ancient times, this apparatus was called "al-anbīq," a word that means "the still" in Arabic and can be traced to ambix, meaning "still in Greek." When the apparatus found its way into Medieval European laboratories, scientific texts first transformed the Arabic word into Medieval Latin as alembicum. English speakers shortened it to "alembic," and some also dropped the initial "a." That change led to "limbeck," a standard variant still in use today. "Alembic" acquired its figurative use in the 17th century.

Illustration of alembic

Origin and Etymology of alembic

Middle English, from Middle French & Medieval Latin; Middle French alambic & Medieval Latin alembicum, from Arabic al-anbīq, from al the + anbīq still, from Late Greek ambik-, ambix alembic, from Greek, cap of a still


Medical Dictionary

alembic

noun alem·bic \ ə-ˈlem-bik \

medical Definition of alembic

:an apparatus formerly used in distillation

Seen and Heard

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

Love words? Need even more definitions?

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

WORD OF THE DAY

readily predictable

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

The Exceptions Quiz III

  • one-green-toy-robot-amidst-many-red-toy-robots
  • Which of these words does not mean "nonsense"?
How Strong Is Your Vocabulary?

Test your vocabulary with our 10-question quiz!

TAKE THE QUIZ
Citation

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

TAKE THE QUIZ

Love words? Need even more definitions?

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