Where did the word “chemistry” come from?

Posted on Mar 9, 2022      588

Researchers have not yet come to a consensus on the origin of the word “chemistry”. There are several versions.

According to the first version, the term “chemistry” comes from the Egyptian word “Chem”, the Arabic name of the country. In that case, “chemistry” can be translated as “Egyptian science.

The same word meant “black”-apparently from the color of the soil in the valley of the Nile River flowing through Egypt (as opposed to the barren sands of the desert). “Kem” or “Chem” (Khemia, “black country,” “country with black earth”) was the name for Egypt in ancient Greece; the term appears in Plutarch. In this version the word “chemistry” is translated as “black science” or “science of the black earth,” but in this case also Egypt is meant, the meaning of this translation is the same as in the first version.

The second version derives the word “chemistry” from the Greek χυμος (“humos”), which can be translated as “the juice of a plant.” This term is found in manuscripts containing information on medicine and pharmacology.

According to a third version, however, the word “chemistry” comes from another Greek word, χυμα (“cheuma”), meaning “casting”, “alloy”. In that case, “chemistry” is the art of casting the smelting of metals, metallurgy.

The term “chemistry” was first used by the Greek alchemist Zosima of Panopolitans in the fifth century A.D. He used the term in the sense of “infusion,” “pouring.” The modern word for the science of chemistry came from the late Latin chimia and is international: for example, in English it is chemistry, in German it is chemie, in French it is chimie. In Russian the term appeared in the era of Peter the Great.