elixir

noun
elix·​ir | \i-ˈlik-sər \

Definition of elixir 

1a(1) : a substance held capable of changing base metals into gold

(2) : a substance held capable of prolonging life indefinitely

b(1) : cure-all

(2) : a medicinal concoction

2 : a sweetened liquid usually containing alcohol that is used in medication either for its medicinal ingredients or as a flavoring

3 : the essential principle

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Alchemist: Someone Who Transforms Things for the Better

Today we recognize alchemy as a pseudoscience, and give chemistry its rightful place as a serious scientific field, but the two terms initially overlapped in meaning before separating by the 17th century, just as astrology and astronomy did during the same period.

Alchemy and alchemist are in fact older words than chemistry and chemist in English. Alchemists believed that lead could be “perfected” into gold, that diseases could be cured, and that life could be prolonged through transmutation, or a change of some essential element into a superior form. Their secretive experiments, usually involving heat and the mixing of liquids, led to the development of pharmacology and the rise of modern chemistry.

The long route to English for alchemist began with the Greek word chēmeia, which probably came from the word chyma (“fluid”), derived from the verb chein, meaning “to pour.” It then passed to Arabic, which added its definite article al- (“the”) to the Greek root. The word then passed from Latin to French before coming to English. Some other words derived from Arabic also retain the al- in English, such as algebra, algorithm, and alcohol; in fact, the transformative liquid that was constantly being sought through experimentation by alchemists is another word with the Arabic al- prefix: elixir.

This power to transform things for the better, real or imagined, led to figurative meanings for alchemy and alchemist.

Did You Know?

Elixir has roots in the practice of alchemy; it was used in the Middle Ages as the word for a substance believed able to alter base metals into gold. Its later use for a drug purported to prolong one’s life led to its use in the names of medicines of mostly questionable effectiveness. Today, it is often used generally for anything thought capable of remedying all ills or difficulties, be they physical or otherwise. The word came to us via Middle English and Medieval Latin from Arabic al-iksīr; it probably ultimately derives from a Greek word meaning "desiccative powder."

Examples of elixir in a Sentence

warned that casino gambling would not be an elixir for all of the region's economic woes

Recent Examples on the Web

If the-more-bubbles-the-better is your modus operandi in the tub, meet the creamy bath time elixir of your dreams. Lauren Valenti, Vogue, "Why a Hot Ginger Bath Is the Perfect Detox Ritual for Winter," 26 Nov. 2018 In the medicinal corners of alchemy, it was also known as the elixir of life, a universal cure that could bring eternal life. Meg Neal, Popular Mechanics, "The Eternal Quest for Aether, the Cosmic Stuff That Never Was," 19 Oct. 2018 By the time the song is over, my makeup is thoroughly melted away, thanks to the elixir of antioxidant-rich seaberry oil, healing vitamin E, and nourishing olive and grapeseed oils. Devon Abelman, Allure, "Then I Met You, a New Skin-Care Brand, Debuts With Double Cleansing Duo," 17 Oct. 2018 Most people can agree that coconut oil is seemingly a magic elixir for anything that ails you. Korin Miller, SELF, "Does Coconut Oil Actually Work Any Magic on Eczema?," 19 July 2018 The Mets know that a simple return to health isn’t an elixir. Bob Nightengale, USA TODAY, "As Mets nosedive, GM Sandy Alderson says club will never go 'extremist' with rebuild," 5 June 2018 The company has more than 20 formulas for its elixirs. Carol Deptolla, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "Bittercube, moving to the west side, will gain a bar, store and bigger production area," 27 June 2018 Indeed, many facialists reserve their most potent, effective elixirs for their after-hours routines. Cleanse and Cleanse Again As a first step, skin-care experts agree that cleansing and toning should never be skipped (or rushed) at night. Kari Molvar, New York Times, "How to Care for Your Skin — While You Sleep," 26 Mar. 2018 Paul Pogba still seems to be the elixir in Mourinho's hat that if unlocked, can take United back to the top of the English game. SI.com, "Substance Over Style: Why 'Pretty' Football Won't Fix Manchester United's Problems," 11 June 2018

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'elixir.' 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 elixir

14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1a(1)

History and Etymology for elixir

Middle English, from Medieval Latin, from Arabic al-iksīr the elixir, from al the + iksīr elixir, probably from Greek xērion desiccative powder, from xēros dry

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Dictionary Entries near elixir

elitist

elixate

elixation

elixir

elixirate

Elizabeth

Elizabethan

Statistics for elixir

Last Updated

12 Dec 2018

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Time Traveler for elixir

The first known use of elixir was in the 14th century

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More Definitions for elixir

elixir

noun

English Language Learners Definition of elixir

: a magical liquid that can cure illness or extend life

elixir

noun
elix·​ir | \i-ˈlik-sər \

Medical Definition of elixir 

: a sweetened liquid usually containing alcohol that is used in medication either for its medicinal ingredients or as a flavoring

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