1624Alchemy & the Kabba Stone
- Nov 14, 2000Mark, Neil,
About the derivation of the term "alchemy", there are a lot of people who
would love to say that this comes from the word for "Egypt": I was just
visiting a site on hieroglyphics and the writer says, "The ancient Egyptians
were possibly the first civilisation (sic) to practice the scientific arts.
Indeed, the word chemistry is derived from the word Alchemy which is the
ancient name for Egypt."
Needless to say, he doesn't seem to provide any room for dispute about that
very intriguing statement.
I would caution against this reading of the origin of alchemy. I know you
both have suggested that there are alternate stories about the origin, but
you didn't include them. The other vying argument for the origin of the term
"alchemy" is that it comes from the Greek khumos, meaning "fluid".
According to Ayto's "Dictionary of Word Origins",
"Alchemy comes, via Old French alkemie and medieval Latin alchimia, from
Arabic alkimia. Broken down into its component parts, this represents
Arabic al "the" and Kimia, a word borrowed by Arabic from Greek khemia
"alchemy"-- that is, the art of transmuting base metals into gold. (It has
been suggested that khemia is the same word as Khemia, the ancient name for
Egypt, on the grounds that alchemy originated in Egypt, but it seems more
likely that it derives from Greek khumos "fluid"-- source of English chyme--
itself based on the verb khein "pour". Modern English chemistry comes not
directly from Greek khemia, but from alchemy, with the loss of the first
>"The word Alchemy is derived from the Arabic name of the art, alkimia, in
>is the definite article. On the origin of "kima" there are differences of opinion.
>Some hold that it is derived from kmt or chem, the ancient Egyptians' name
>country; this means "the black land", and is a reference to the black alluvial soil
>bordering the Nile as opposed to the tawney-colored desert sands. In the
>of alchemy it was much practiced in Egypt, and if this derivation is accepted the
>name would mean "the Egyptian art"."
>"The word Alchemy and its modern formation, chemistry, came directly from
>and provide reminders that in the early Middle Ages, the principal students of the
>Art were Muslims."
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