Definitions

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

  • noun A corrosive, fuming, volatile mixture of hydrochloric and nitric acids, used for testing metals and dissolving platinum and gold.

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

  • noun obsolete, inorganic chemistry A mixture of three parts concentrated hydrochloric acid to one part concentrated nitric acid.

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

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

Etymologies

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.

Examples

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Comments

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

    November 4, 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

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

    December 14, 2007

  • "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