Definition of alembic
- philosophy … filtered through the alembic of Plato's mind
- —B. T. Shropshire
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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.
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