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

Examples of amalgam in a Sentence

a church that is an amalgam of traditional and modern architectural styles
Recent Examples on the Web David Hemmings stars as Thomas, an amalgam of various real-life lensmen—most notably David Bailey—but Blow-Up's style pedigree doesn't end there. Ew Staff, EW.com, 7 May 2024 Those scenes in the film are based on fact, although Mr. Heron is an amalgam of real-life agents. Emily Zemler, Los Angeles Times, 19 Apr. 2024 Against an amalgam of bullpen arms, the Giants didn’t go quietly. Evan Webeck, The Mercury News, 3 Apr. 2024 Rolling Stone described it as an amalgam of Sly Stone, Stevie Wonder and the Fifth Dimension. Jordan Runtagh, Peoplemag, 1 Feb. 2024 Scardino says the show is an amalgam of her own fandoms. Zoe G Phillips, The Hollywood Reporter, 13 Mar. 2024 Just a wild amalgam of utility infield-DH types, from Isiah Kiner-Falefa and Justin Turner to Eduardo Escobar and Daniel Vogelbach (on minor-league deals). Bob Nightengale, USA TODAY, 22 Feb. 2024 There’s an odd amalgam of symmetry and irony in Ferrera’s first Oscar nomination’s being for a film so predicated on a doll that often defined beauty standards. Lesley O’Toole, Los Angeles Times, 12 Feb. 2024 Wagoner collaborates with crews to construct eclectic playlists — an amalgam of current hits, old classics, songs for specific situations like scoring and situational matches for game location and weather — and solicits requests. Eric Renner Brown, Billboard, 9 Feb. 2024

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

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 27 May. 2024.

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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