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

  • n. A corrosive, fuming, volatile mixture of hydrochloric and nitric acids, used for testing metals and dissolving platinum and gold. Also called nitrohydrochloric acid.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • n. A mixture of three parts concentrated hydrochloric acid to one part concentrated nitric acid.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • n. a very corrosive fuming yellow liquid consisting of nitric and hydrochloric acids. It has the power of dissolving gold, the “royal” metal.

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

  • n. a yellow fuming corrosive mixture of nitric and hydrochloric acid that dissolves metals (including gold)


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

New Latin aqua rēgia : Latin aqua, water + Latin rēgia, feminine of rēgius, royal (because it dissolves gold, the "royal metal”).

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

Latin aqua regia, royal water, so named because it is one of the few solvents capable of dissolving noble metals.


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  • "Aqua regia is a dangerous chemical that must be treated with great caution; would Drebbel really have left it in so precarious a position by his window? Is it possible, instead, that Drebbel was deliberately experimenting with cochineal--as an alchemist?

    Tin and aqua regia were commonly used in alchemy. Moreover ... the philosopher's stone--which transmuted base metals into gold and bestowed immortal life, wisdom, and salvation on its maker--was actually a red powder or liquid. ... Consequently, alchemists like Drebbel were greatly interested in red dyes."

    Amy Butler Greenfield, A Perfect Red: Empire, Espionage, and the Quest for the Color of Desire (New York: Harper Collins, 2005), 139.

    More info on Cornelis Drebbel.

    October 5, 2017

  • Such a nice sounding phrase for what is actually extremely caustic stuff.

    December 14, 2007

  • I didn't know this one but was struck by its similarity to the Italian word "acquaragia" which is a solvent (basically turpentine) capable of dissolving paints and varnishes. The -ragia here comes from the Greek -rhagia meaning to break (cf. haemorrhage)

    December 14, 2007

  • A mixture of concentrated hydrochloric and nitric acid that can dissolve the royal metals gold and platinum, hence "royal water".

    November 4, 2007