Definitions

from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

  • n. An apparatus consisting of two vessels connected by a tube, formerly used for distilling liquids.
  • n. A device that purifies or alters by a process comparable to distillation.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • n. An early chemical apparatus, consisting of two retorts connected by a tube, used to purify substances by distillation

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • n. An apparatus formerly used in distillation, usually made of glass or metal. It has mostly given place to the retort and worm still.

from The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia

  • To distil as by an alembic; obtain as by means of an alembic.
  • n. A vessel formerly used in chemistry for distillation, and usually made of glass or copper.
  • n. Hence Anything which works a change or transformation: as, the alembic of sorrow.

from WordNet 3.0 Copyright 2006 by Princeton University. All rights reserved.

  • n. an obsolete kind of container used for distillation; two retorts connected by a tube

Etymologies

Middle English alambic, from Old French, from Medieval Latin alembicus, from Arabic al-'anbīq : al-, the + 'anbīq, still (from Greek ambix, cup).
(American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition)
From French alambic, from mediæval Latin alembicus, from Arabic إنْبِيق (’inbīq, "still"), from Ancient Greek ἄμβιξ (ambix, "cup, cap of a still"). (Wiktionary)

Examples

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  • "Small-planter households resented their dependence on large-planter households. Although the Chesapeake continued to lag behind Europe, the arrival during the second half of the eighteenth century of the three-gallon alembic still, a series of improved cider presses, the newly developed Hewes crab apple, and other technologies allowed small-planter households to become more self-sufficient. They developed alcohol trade networks with kin and people of their own kind."
    —Sarah Hand Meacham, Every Home a Distillery: Alcohol, Gender, and Technology in the Colonial Chesapeake (Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 2009), 4

    Also,
    "The invention of the alembic still, or side distilling, in particular, made the process easier. Side distilling became known in England around 1720, but it was not practiced in the Chesapeake until the 1760s. Before the invention of side distilling, stills were very large and expensive pieces of equipment, and distilling was a complex process...." (103)

    June 6, 2010

  • "The sound of her anger was condensed, like acid, perhaps due to the alembic of the pump case around them. It functioned like an acoustic concave mirror, increased and concentrated the tone. She had a melodious voice. Enhanced in the Zahle School girls' chorus. Conducted by Hess-Theissen. But at the same time it could be a whiplash. He had seen her quick-freeze an entire super-elliptical conference table of chief engineers."
    - 'The Quiet Girl', Peter Høeg.

    March 19, 2008

  • I first saw this in an RW Emerson metaphor. "Thus is Art a nature passed through the alembic of man."

    December 26, 2006