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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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

Inspired by Queen Isabelle of Hungary’s famous youthful elixir, this makeup-artist favorite imparts a dewy, supple glow with toning rose extract and rosemary essential oil, as well as a refreshing zing with astringent mint. Lauren Valenti, Vogue, "How to Turn Your Desk Into the Ultimate Self-Care Station in 2019," 12 Dec. 2018 Steer clear of supplements, tonics, and elixirs that make this hunger-killing claim, and fill up on breakfasts that combine fiber and protein instead. Jaclyn London, Ms, Rd, Cdn, Good Housekeeping, "The Real Benefits of Apple Cider Vinegar, According to a Nutritionist," 21 Nov. 2018 Elgort doesn't have a go-to elixir or unexpected trick for applying products. Devon Abelman, Allure, "Ansel Elgort Shares His Simple Skin-Care Routine and Appreciation for BTS Makeup," 25 Aug. 2018 The diner next to me orders the juice pairing, which includes a selection of herby elixirs, teas, and non-alcoholic cocktails like rose kombucha and mushroom tea. Mary Holland, Condé Nast Traveler, "What It's Like to Eat at Noma, One of the World’s Most Famous Restaurants," 21 Dec. 2018 Your best bet is to double down by incorporating two or more deeply moisturizing elixirs. Lauren Valenti, Vogue, "The Pro’s Guide to Managing Sensitive Skin This Winter," 27 Dec. 2018 Interested in trying one or more Dirty Lemon elixirs? The Cut, "​Should You Be Drinking Your Skincare? (An Expert Says Yes)," 3 May 2018 The berries would then be used to create an elixir that was believed to cure all poisons and make any person or animal fertile. Adam Schubak, Country Living, "Here's How Kissing Under the Mistletoe Became a Christmas Tradition," 29 Nov. 2018 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

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

7 Mar 2019

Look-up Popularity

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 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

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Comments on elixir

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