The word alchemy may derive from the Old French alquimie, which is from the Medieval Latin alchimia, and which is in turn from the Arabic al-kimia (الكيمياء). This term itself is derived from the Ancient Greek chemeia (χημεία) or chemia (χημία) with the addition of the Arabic definite article al- (الـ). The ancient Greek word may have been derived from a version of the Egyptian name for Egypt, which was itself based on the Ancient Egyptian word kēme (hieroglyphic Khmi, black earth, as opposed to desert sand).
The word could also have originally derived from the Greek chumeia (χυμεία) meaning "mixture" and referring to pharmaceutical chemistry. With the later rise of alchemy in Alexandria, the word may have derived from Χημία, and thus became spelled as χημεία, and the original meaning forgotten. Its etymology is still open to question.
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Famous quotes containing the word etymology:
“The universal principle of etymology in all languages: words are carried over from bodies and from the properties of bodies to express the things of the mind and spirit. The order of ideas must follow the order of things.”
—Giambattista Vico (16881744)
“Semantically, taste is rich and confusing, its etymology as odd and interesting as that of style. But while stylederiving from the stylus or pointed rod which Roman scribes used to make marks on wax tabletssuggests activity, taste is more passive.... Etymologically, the word we use derives from the Old French, meaning touch or feel, a sense that is preserved in the current Italian word for a keyboard, tastiera.”
—Stephen Bayley, British historian, art critic. Taste: The Story of an Idea, Taste: The Secret Meaning of Things, Random House (1991)