The word chemistry comes from the word alchemy, an earlier set of practices that encompassed elements of chemistry, metallurgy, philosophy, astrology, astronomy, mysticism and medicine; it is commonly thought of as the quest to turn lead or another common starting material into gold. The word alchemy in turn is derived from the Arabic word al-kīmīā (الكيمياء). The Arabic term is borrowed from the Greek χημία or χημεία. This may have Egyptian origins. Many believe that al-kīmīā is derived from χημία, which is in turn derived from the word Chemi or Kimi, which is the ancient name of Egypt in Egyptian. Alternately, al-kīmīā may be derived from χημεία, meaning "cast together".
An alchemist was called a 'chemist' in popular speech, and later the suffix "-ry" was added to this to describe the art of the chemist as "chemistry".
In retrospect, the definition of chemistry has changed over time, as new discoveries and theories add to the functionality of the science. Shown below are some of the standard definitions used by various noted chemists:
- Alchemy (330) – the study of the composition of waters, movement, growth, embodying, disembodying, drawing the spirits from bodies and bonding the spirits within bodies (Zosimos).
- Chymistry (1661) – the subject of the material principles of mixed bodies (Boyle).
- Chymistry (1663) – a scientific art, by which one learns to dissolve bodies, and draw from them the different substances on their composition, and how to unite them again, and exalt them to a higher perfection (Glaser).
- Chemistry (1730) – the art of resolving mixed, compound, or aggregate bodies into their principles; and of composing such bodies from those principles (Stahl).
- Chemistry (1837) – the science concerned with the laws and effects of molecular forces (Dumas).
- Chemistry (1947) – the science of substances: their structure, their properties, and the reactions that change them into other substances (Pauling).
- Chemistry (1998) – the study of matter and the changes it undergoes (Chang).
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Famous quotes containing the word etymology:
“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)
“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)