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.
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
First Known Use: 14th century
Medical Definition of alembic
: an apparatus formerly used in distillation
Seen and Heard
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