from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 5th Edition.

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

from The Century Dictionary.

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

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English.

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

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License.

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

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

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


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

[Middle English alambic, from Old French, from Medieval Latin alembicus, from Arabic al-’anbīq : al-, the + ’anbīq, still (from Greek ambix, cup).]

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

From French alambic, from mediæval Latin alembicus, from Arabic إنْبِيق (’inbīq, "still"), from Ancient Greek ἄμβιξ (ambix, "cup, cap of a still").



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

    December 26, 2006

  • "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

  • "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


    "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

  • "Since the Dissolution of the Monasteries, the distillation of 'wholesome and sweet waters' and herbal remedies had passed from the hands of monks to those of the Elizabethan housewife. With an alembic set over the coals, she became a scientist, extracting her own vertues, distilling damask rose-flower water for use in the kitchen, making spirits of wine, aquavit and alcoholic cordial waters as well as essences of spices, cosmetics, medicines and hand-waters for washing. Platt described a way to keep orange or lemon juice good for a year for use in sauces, distilling it until 'it is done boiling' and bottling the syrup with a barrier of salad oil at the top."

    --Kate Colquhoun, Taste: The Story of Britain Through Its Cooking (NY: Bloomsbury, 2007), 108

    January 9, 2017