alem·​bic ə-ˈlem-bik How to pronounce alembic (audio)
: an apparatus used in distillation
: something that refines or transmutes as if by distillation
philosophy … filtered through the alembic of Plato's mindB. 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 Devon’s only whisky distillery has enlisted 50-year industry veteran Frank McHardy to make its spirit using an alembic still. Felipe Schrieberg, Forbes, 22 Jan. 2023 Fermentation takes place in stainless steel vats, distillation in copper alembic pot stills and the añejo portion (30 percent of the blend) is matured in American oak barrels for about a year, the minimum required for that category. Jonah Flicker, Robb Report, 2 Aug. 2022 In the meantime, there’s also Ghost Rail Tennessee Dry Gin to sample, produced on a small alembic still at the third Company Distilling location located in Thompson’s Station. Jonah Flicker, Robb Report, 20 July 2022 There were books, folders of clippings, stacks of print materials of all kinds piled up as if awaiting distillation through the typewriter’s alembic. Ian Frazier, The New Yorker, 12 July 2022 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 See More

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'alembic.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History


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, in the meaning defined at sense 1

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


Dictionary Entries Near alembic

Cite this Entry

“Alembic.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 3 Oct. 2023.

Medical Definition


alem·​bic ə-ˈlem-bik How to pronounce alembic (audio)
: an apparatus formerly used in distillation
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