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

Learn how to cleanse, charge, and set intentions with your stones, create gem elixirs, and more. courant.com, "Community News For The Farmington Valley Edition," 6 July 2019 This is the vibrant elixir to use in your paella, buttery saffron rice, or risotto. Andy Baraghani, Bon Appetit, "12 Essential Middle Eastern Ingredients and Where to Buy Them Online," 5 Feb. 2018 Supporters hope these unique gifts represent an elixir for the Tories, who have been on the brink of civil war over Brexit. Alexander Smith, NBC News, "Boris Johnson's to lose: Race for next U.K. leader nears the endgame," 18 June 2019 Founder April Gargiulo had stuffed her first product with 22 ingredients suspended in a grapeseed oil elixir. Mattie Kahn, Glamour, "I Regret to Inform You Vintner’s Daughter Is Totally Worth It," 24 Apr. 2019 Not new, but still worth mentioning, is the Omorovicza Miracle Facial Oil, a silky elixir formulated with the superstar ingredient, plus an array of hydrating oils, including sea buckthorn berry, rosehip, and sweet almond. Macaela Mackenzie, Allure, "What Is Bakuchiol? Experts Explain the Benefits of the Natural Alternative to Retinol," 7 Sep. 2018 Gale finds the elixir helps her get a full nights rest and doesn't wake up in the middle of the night as often. Nicole Saunders, Harper's BAZAAR, "Watch Victoria's Secret Model Kelly Gale's Nighttime Beauty Routine," 12 Mar. 2019 Dewan, secret owner of the elixir of youth, celebrated her birthday at the start of this week by getting her ears pierced with 5-year-old daughter Everly, and with a sprinkle of romance from new boyfriend, Steve Kazee. Lucy Wood, Marie Claire, "Here's Jenna Dewan and Steve Kazee Kissing in a Photo Booth for Her 38th Birthday," 4 Dec. 2018 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

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

11 Jul 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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