alem·​bic | \ ə-ˈlem-bik How to pronounce alembic (audio) \

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

Illustration of alembic

Illustration of alembic

alembic 1

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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.

Examples of alembic in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web Tucked out of site is a magnificent alembic pot still, brought here from Cognac, France in the early 1900s. Sara Schneider,, 10 Aug. 2020 The copper pot still, or alembic, sits behind the spacious bar like a shiny visitor from outer space. Florence Fabricant, New York Times, 21 May 2018

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

First Known Use of alembic

14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for 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

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The first known use of alembic was in the 14th century

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Alembert, d'



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Cite this Entry

“Alembic.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 6 Jul. 2022.

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More Definitions for alembic


alem·​bic | \ ə-ˈlem-bik How to pronounce alembic (audio) \

Medical Definition of alembic

: an apparatus formerly used in distillation


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