elixir

noun
elix·​ir | \ i-ˈlik-sər How to pronounce elixir (audio) \

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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Elixir has roots in the practice of alchemy; it was used in the Middle Ages as the word for a substance believed to be capable of changing 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 Greek xērion, meaning "desiccative powder."

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.

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 How did gamers come to rely on Bawls as their all-nighter liquid elixir? Esra Erol, Bon Appétit, 20 Apr. 2022 At the end of a hero’s journey, the protagonist is supposed to return with some kind of trophy: an elixir, a token, some symbol of redemption. Bethanne Patrick, Los Angeles Times, 13 Apr. 2022 Somehow, this potent elixir feels a lot more lightweight and airy than your typical, colorless lip oil. Sarah Han, Allure, 6 Mar. 2022 It’s the elixir of fame, the lure of going platinum. Bob Larsen, SPIN, 12 Feb. 2022 Essentially Hawaiian beauty secrets in a bottle, just a few drops of this plant powered elixir will give you an instant glow. Celia Shatzman, Forbes, 29 Oct. 2021 Harnessing the skin-soothing benefits of jojoba oil and aloe vera, the elixir also offers a sensorial experience by ways of its woody aroma, balanced by bright citrus and a hint of warm clove. Lauren Valenti, Vogue, 15 Oct. 2021 Playing at home has seemed like a magic elixir for the Black Knights. Mark Heim | Mheim@al.com, al, 23 Oct. 2021 Add big, bold flavor to a G&T with a few drops of Alice & the Magician’s concentrated beverage elixir. Elizabeth Brownfield, Forbes, 20 Oct. 2021 See More

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

elixation

elixir

elixirate

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Last Updated

8 May 2022

Cite this Entry

“Elixir.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/elixir. Accessed 24 May. 2022.

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More Definitions for elixir

elixir

noun
elix·​ir | \ i-ˈlik-sər How to pronounce elixir (audio) \

Medical Definition of elixir

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

More from Merriam-Webster on elixir

Nglish: Translation of elixir for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of elixir for Arabic Speakers

Britannica.com: Encyclopedia article about elixir

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