The term “alchemy” comes from the Old French word “alquemie,” which is derived from the Medieval Latin “alchimia,” which in turn comes from the Arabic “al-kīmiyāʾ” (الكيمياء). The Arabic term is a combination of “al-” (the) and “kīmiyāʾ,” which itself is derived from the Greek word “khēmia” or “khēmeia,” meaning “art of transmuting metals.”

1. Proto-Indo-European (PIE)

The roots are less direct but are connected to the Greek “khēmia” or “khēmeia,” potentially derived from the Egyptian word “khem,” meaning “black earth,” referring to the fertile soil of the Nile Delta.

2. Ancient Greek

The term “khēmia” or “khēmeia” in Greek referred to the art of transmuting metals or chemical processes.

3. Arabic (c. 8th century CE)

The Greek term “khēmia” was adopted into Arabic as “al-kīmiyāʾ” (الكيمياء), with “al-” meaning “the” and “kīmiyāʾ” referring to the art of transmutation and chemistry.

4. Medieval Latin (c. 9th to 14th century CE)

The Arabic term “al-kīmiyāʾ” was adopted into Medieval Latin as “alchimia,” referring to the early practice of chemistry and the mystical art of transforming base metals into gold.

5. Old French (c. 9th to 14th century CE)

The Latin “alchimia” evolved into Old French “alquemie,” maintaining the meanings related to early chemistry and mystical transformation.

6. Middle English (c. 11th to 15th century CE)

The Old French “alquemie” was adopted into Middle English as “alchemy,” meaning the medieval forerunner of chemistry, concerned with the transmutation of matter, particularly base metals into gold, and the search for the philosopher’s stone.

7. Modern English (from 15th century CE to present)

The term “alchemy” evolved into its current form and pronunciation, referring to both the historical practice of alchemists and metaphorically to any process of transformation or creation.

The word “alchemy” reflects the historical and mystical practices of early scientists who sought to understand and manipulate the material world, blending elements of chemistry, philosophy, and mysticism.