amalgam

noun
amal·​gam | \ ə-ˈmal-gəm How to pronounce amalgam (audio) \

Definition of amalgam

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

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Examples of amalgam in a Sentence

a church that is an amalgam of traditional and modern architectural styles
Recent Examples on the Web Situated between the kids’ playroom and the wife’s office, the laidback sprawl showcases a black-and-gray palette and an amalgam of shapes, from the twin geometric coffee tables that fit together like puzzle pieces to the curvaceous seating. Kristin Tablang, House Beautiful, 24 Sep. 2021 Colclough sings the role more with amalgam of power and confusion than accessible vulnerability, which is a legitimate interpretation of what is happening to the man. Chris Jones, chicagotribune.com, 19 Sep. 2021 More than in any previous period in the double-0 saga, Craig's installments seem to be an amalgam of those of all of his forerunners, cherry-picking the elements that made each one unique and of his moment. Chris Nashawaty, EW.com, 15 Sep. 2021 His character is an amalgam of several law enforcement officers involved in the takedown of the attacker. Angela Dawson, Forbes, 2 Sep. 2021 But this is actually an amalgam of marble pieces from two sets of cloisters — some built by the Augustinians in 12th and 13th century France, others salvaged from a Cistercian monastery in Spain. Hannah Walhout, Travel + Leisure, 24 July 2021 Francis’s custom bar is an amalgam of dark chocolate, ginger, crushed bay leaf and a sprinkling of chamomile flowers. New York Times, 19 Aug. 2021 Built in 1955, the four-bedroom ranch-style home sprawled out and up over 3,000 square feet, a funky amalgam of slabs and angles and cantilevered windows. David Howard, Popular Mechanics, 11 Aug. 2021 Visually intriguing towers of soft-serve ice cream in waffle cones, with volcanic torrents of crispy garlic-hot chile sauce cascading over them — sweet, savory, creamy, crunchy, salty, spicy; an amazing amalgam of sensory pleasure. Lisa Golden Schroeder, Star Tribune, 14 July 2021

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.

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First Known Use of amalgam

15th century, in the meaning defined at sense 2

History and Etymology for amalgam

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.

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

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Last Updated

22 Oct 2021

Cite this Entry

“Amalgam.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/amalgam. Accessed 24 Oct. 2021.

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More Definitions for amalgam

amalgam

noun

English Language Learners Definition of amalgam

: a combination or mixture of different things
: a mixture of mercury and other metals used for filling holes in teeth

amalgam

noun
amal·​gam | \ ə-ˈmal-gəm How to pronounce amalgam (audio) \

Medical Definition of amalgam

: 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

More from Merriam-Webster on amalgam

Nglish: Translation of amalgam for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of amalgam for Arabic Speakers

Britannica.com: Encyclopedia article about amalgam

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