amalgam

noun

amal·​gam ə-ˈmal-gəm How to pronounce amalgam (audio)
1
: a mixture of different elements
an amalgam of musical forms
The crowd was an amalgam of young and old.
2
: an alloy of mercury with another metal that is solid or liquid at room temperature according to the proportion of mercury present and is used especially in making tooth cements
Dentists have used silver-colored mercury amalgam (mercury mixed, about 50/50, with a combination of silver, tin, copper and other metals) to fill cavities for at least 150 years.Jennifer Huget

Example Sentences

a church that is an amalgam of traditional and modern architectural styles
Recent Examples on the Web Channel 5 does air children's content every morning, but they're mostly known for their amalgam of programming, including original dramas, soaps, music and royal documentaries. Maureen Lee Lenker, EW.com, 19 Sep. 2022 The property’s main home is thoroughly contemporary in design, an 11,000-square-foot amalgam of airy, geometric pavilions capped by winged roofs and designed by notable Pacific Northwest talents Cutler Anderson Architects. David Kaufman, Robb Report, 30 Nov. 2022 In her place was a uniquely American amalgam, a child who didn’t know how to ride a bike without training wheels but did know about ballistic windows and bulletproof backpacks and the movement to ban assault weapons. John Woodrow Cox, Anchorage Daily News, 24 Oct. 2022 In the space of four songs on her Frontera EP, Ponzio sets the stage for her amalgam of country, R&B and Latin. Jessica Nicholson, Billboard, 30 Sep. 2022 It’s such a perfect amalgam of talents both in front of and behind the camera. Nina Metz, Chicago Tribune, 21 Sep. 2022 The Sox traded Renfroe and tried to replace him in right field with an amalgam of Bradley, Cordero, and infielder Christian Arroyo. Peter Abraham, BostonGlobe.com, 30 July 2022 The story is told with flair at STAM, the Ghent City Museum, whose very architecture — an amalgam of restored medieval cloisters and contemporary glass — reflects the modern city itself. Mary Winston Nicklin, Washington Post, 23 Sep. 2022 Indiana Jones is an amalgam of Hollywood archetypes, the essence of a big-screen hero boiled down and maybe left on the stove too long. Alex Galbraith, EW.com, 23 Aug. 2022 See More

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

Word History

Etymology

Middle English amalgam, malgame "alloy of mercury with another metal," borrowed from Medieval Latin amalgama, borrowed from Arabic al maljam, al muljam, from al "the" + maljam, muljam, perhaps borrowed from Greek málagma "emollient," from malak-, stem of malássein "to soften" (derivative of malakós "soft') + -ma, resultative noun suffix — more at mollify

Note: The origin of Medieval Latin amalgama has been the subject of speculation since at least the nineteenth century, with no conclusive results. The orientalist Marcel Devic (Dictionnaire étymologique des mots français d'origine orientale, Paris, 1876), based on a supposed variant algame, constructed an Arabic source which he rendered as ʽamal al-jamaʽa, with ʽamal translated as "practice (opposed to theory), work" ("pratique, œuvre") and jamaʽa as "conjunction, meeting" ("conjonction, réunion"), perhaps as an alteration of mujāmʽa, the whole meaning "the act of consummating a marriage" ("l'acte de consommation du mariage"). This, according to Devic, would be an appropriate alchemical metaphor for the joining of mercury with another metal. His etymology has been accepted, in the twentieth century, by the Französisches etymologisches Wörterbuch and Trésor de la langue française. The difficulty with this hypothesis, however—as already noted by the Oxford English Dictionary in 1884—is that no such collocation has ever been located in an Arabic text. A genuine Arabic predecessor of amalgama was pointed out by Julius Ruska in an alchemical text that he entitles "Book of the Missive of Jafʽar al-Ṣādiq on the Science of Art and the Noble Stone" ("Buch des Sendschreibens Ǵafʽar alṢādiqs über die Wissenschaft der Kunst und des edlen Steins," in Arabische Alchemisten II. Ǵafʽar alṢādiq, der sechste Imām, Heidelberg, 1924, pp. 72-73). The word used is muljam, while the process of amalgamating is iljam. Ruska notes that muljam in the sense "amalgam" is also found in the Arabic dictionary Lisān al-ʽArab by Ibn Manẓūr. Since the word cannot be parsed as the derivative of an Arabic root that is at all semantically apt, Ruska returns to the idea that it is a borrowing of Greek málagma "emollient" (also, in Latin texts, "poultice"), hypothesizing that it was borrowed as a medical and alchemical term via a Syriac intermediary. The argument against this conjecture has been that the semantic fit is poor, as a word meaning "emollient" or "poultice" has little evident connection to mercury alloys. Hence, if the Greek hypothesis is correct, a significant element still appears to lack elucidation.

First Known Use

15th century, in the meaning defined at sense 2

Time Traveler
The first known use of amalgam was in the 15th century

Dictionary Entries Near amalgam

Cite this Entry

“Amalgam.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/amalgam. Accessed 8 Feb. 2023.

Kids Definition

amalgam

noun
amal·​gam ə-ˈmal-gəm How to pronounce amalgam (audio)
1
: an alloy of mercury with some other metal or metals that is used especially for tooth filling
2
: a combination or mixture of different elements
an amalgam of fact and fiction

Medical Definition

amalgam

noun
amal·​gam ə-ˈmal-gəm How to pronounce amalgam (audio)
: an alloy of mercury with another metal that is solid or liquid at room temperature according to the proportion of mercury present and is used especially in making tooth cements

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