The Alchemy web site on Levity.com
Alchemical and archaic chemistry terms
Part I (A-K)Originally prepared by Carmen Giunta at webserver.lemoyne.edu/faculty/giunta/archema.htm with some later additions by Gleb Butuzov
Partial list of sources:
Julius Grant, Chemical Dictionary, 3rd ed. (Philadelphia: Blakiston, 1944)
James Bryant Conant, ed., Harvard Case Histories in Experimental Science, vol. 1 (Cambridge, MA: Harvard, 1957)
W. E. Flood, The Dictionary of Chemical Names (New York: Philosophical Library, 1963)
Frederick Soddy, "Radioactivity", Chemical Society Annual Reports 10, 262-88 (1913) Go to Part II (L-Z)
acid of shugar: oxalic acid.
acidum salis: hydrochloric acid (HCl, marine acid, muriatic acid, spirit of salt); literally "acid of salt".
aer fixus: fixed air ether. Aether nitri, literally "nitric ether", was ethyl nitrate (C2H5NO3)
aes cyprium. Cyprian brass or copper.elastic fluid). alkaline air, fossil alkali, marine alkali, mineral alkali, vegetable alkali, volatile alkali.) spirit of hartshorn, volatile alkali.
alcanet root - alcanna tinctoria.
antimony. From latin 'antimonium' used by Constantinius Africanus (c. 1050) to refer to Stibnite.nitrous acid, spirit of nitre).
aqua tofani. Arsenious oxide. Extremely poisonous. Used by Paracelsus.spirit of wine)
Armenian bole: red clay.molecule.) phlogisticated air; see also mephitic air). earth from which barium was eventually isolated, namely barium oxide (BaO). Barytes can also refer to barite, a barium sulfate (BaSO4) mineral also known as heavy spar. Baryta can also refer to barium hydroxide or its hydrate. Barytium is an older name for barium.
bismuth: often the ore for extracting mercury
bismuth glance (bismuth sulphide)-- apparently a shiny substance
bittern: solution of magnesium salts
bleaching powder: calcium chloro-hypochlorite (CaOCl2).
blende (German 'deceptive': zinc sulphide)--because it looked like galena (lead sulphide), but produced no lead.
blue stone: copper sulphate.
boule (bole): bole armeniac.
butter of tin: hydrated stannic chloride.
cadmia, which was also called Tuttia or Tutty, was probably zinc carbonate.
calamine. Zinc carbonate.lime, quicklime). Caustic calcareous earth was calcium hydroxide (Ca(OH)2, slaked lime) and mild calcareous earth was calcium carbonate (CaCO3, chalk, carbonate of lime). calx. calx, i.e., oxidation of a metal, often by roasting.
calomel. Mercurous chloride. Purgative, made by subliming a mixture of mercuric chloride and metallic mercury, triturated in a mortar. This was heated in a iron pot and the crust of calomel formed on the lid was ground to powder and boiled with water to remove the very poisonous mercuric chloride.elastic fluid associated with heat flow. earth), the result of roasting a metal or mineral. Sometimes used for a particular calx, namely lime. Name like calx of mercury (mercuric oxide) was virtually a recipe for its creation; a calx was a powder formed by roasting a mineral or metal, generally what we would call an oxide. fixed air)
carbonic oxide: carbon monoxide (CO)
caustic marine alkali. Caustic soda. Sodium hydroxide. Made by adding lime to natron.
caustic volatile alkali. Ammonium hydroxide.
caustic wood alkali. Caustic potash. Potassium hydroxide. Made by adding lime to potash.carbonate of lime, mild calcareous earth). Acid of chalk is carbon dioxide (CO2, carbonic acid, fixed air)
caustic potassa: hydrate potassium.
caustic soda: sodium hydroxide.
Chili niter: sodium nitrate.
chrome green: chromic oxide.
chrome orange. Mixture of chrome yellow and chrome red.
chrome red. Basic lead chromate.
chrome yellow. Lead chromate.
cinnabar or vermillion. Mercuric sulphide.
cobalt. Named by the copper miners of the Hartz Mountains after the evil spirits the 'kobolds' which gave a false copper ore; despised because of its uselessness and unhealthiness (it was often found mixed with arsenic), and because it resembled silver but wasn't.
common salt. Sodium chloride.
copper glance. Cuprous sulphide ore.
copper-nickel, named for another devil, because it looked like copper but wasn't-- our nickel.green vitriol); blue copperas: copper sulphate.
cream of tartar: bitartrate potassium.
creech: calcium sulfate (CaSO4)
cuprite. Red cuprous oxide ore.pure air, vital air); see phlogiston. marine acid.
Dragon's blood: (sometimes) resin from Rattan palm fruit.
dry alum: sulphate aluminium & potassium.olefiant gas) in 1794 by four Dutch chemists Johann Rudolph Deimann, Adrien Paets van Troostwyck, Anthoni Lauwerenburgh and Nicolas Bondt.
Dutch White. Mixture of one part of white lead to three of barium sulphate.calx); see calcareous earth, magnesian earth, siliceous earth.
elastic fluid: usually a descriptive term for gas (air); however, certain elastic fluids were postulated which correspond to no material (caloric, ether, phlogiston).
epsom salts: sulphate of magnesia.elastic fluid postulated to support the transmission of light. (The organic chemistry meaning is still current: namely an organic compound whose formula is ROR', where R and R' are alkyl or aryl groups; especially diethyl ether (C2H5OC2H5).)
Ethiops mineral black: sulphide of mercury.
fixed air(aer fixus): carbon dioxide (CO2, carbonic acid).
flowers of antimony (arsenic trioxide), obtained by roasting orpiment or realgar (arsenic di- and trisulphide)-- which are beautiful names themselves. Antimony and arsenic have similar properties and were often confused; their compounds were not really disentangled till the 19th century. Antimony was very popular in medieval times as a medicine, and the confusion with arsenic probably prematurely dispatched many a patient.
flowers of sulphur. light yellow crystalline powder, made by distilling sulphur.pompholix). Found as a deposit in zinc chimneys. "Flower" means "flour" here; the words are etymologically the same.
fluoro acid air: silicon tetrafluoride (SiF4).
fool's gold (iron sulphide).common mineral alkali, marine alkali, soda)
fulminating gold. Made by adding ammonia to the auric hydroxide formed by precipitation by potash from metallic gold dissolved in aqua regis. Highly explosive when dry.
fulminating silver. Silver nitride, very explosive when dry. Made by dissolving silver oxide in ammonia.
funiculus: an invisible membrane postulated to hold up a column of mercury in the Torricellian experiment [Linus]
glass of Antimony. Impure antimony tetroxide, obtained by roasting stibnite. Used as a yellow pigment for glass and porcelain.sal mirabilis) livre.
green lion -- a widely used alchemical term; Vera Prima Materia of the Stone, often confused with iron sulphate.
green copperas, yet another name for green vitriol (iron sulphate). Copperas, 'coppery water', should have been restricted to copper sulphate.livre.
gypsum. Calcium sulphate.
hartshorn (spirits of): ammonia; (slats of) ammonium carbonate.sulphuret.) Hepar sulphuris (liver of sulphur) was a synonym either for potassa sulphurata (a mixture of various compounds of potassium and sulfur made by fusing potassium carbonate and sulfur) or, in homeopathic contexts, for calcium sulfide (CaS). sulphuretted hydrogen)
horn silver, argentum cornu. A glass like ore of silver chloride.elastic fluid sometimes used synonymously with caloric (matter of heat), sometimes with phlogiston (matter of fire), and sometimes as a substance with the postulated properties of both.
Jeweller's Putty: oxide of tin.
King's Yellow. A mixture of orpiment with white arsenic.