Medical Definition of Alembic

  • Medical Author:
    William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

    Dr. Shiel received a Bachelor of Science degree with honors from the University of Notre Dame. There he was involved in research in radiation biology and received the Huisking Scholarship. After graduating from St. Louis University School of Medicine, he completed his Internal Medicine residency and Rheumatology fellowship at the University of California, Irvine. He is board-certified in Internal Medicine and Rheumatology.

Reviewed on 12/11/2018

Alembic: A type of still, an apparatus used in the process of distillation. Alembics were employed in chemistry and biomedical laboratories as well as in distilling cognac.

By extension, "alembic" is anything that refines or transmutes as if by distillation. For example, the alembic of the surgeon's mind.

From the Arabic al-anbiq meaning "the still" from the Greek word for a still ("ambix"). In Europe, the Arabic word was transmuted in Medieval Latin to "alembicum." and later shortened in English to "alembic."

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Reviewed on 12/11/2018