The origin of the word AMALGAM [long]

ᴚǝǝƶɐʍɐɈ

Member
English
The word AMALGAM (and also AMALGAMATE) is in all the main European languages today. It makes its first clear appearance in Europe in the 13th century, in Latin alchemy texts, where it was spelled ''amalgama'' and meant an amalgam of mercury with another metal. (The early Latin texts are quoted in Devic, a French book, year 1876). The question I'm going to discuss is where did the medieval Latin word come from. Seven currently published English dictionaries answer as follows: The first three say the source of the medieval Latin is obscure, the last three say it certainly goes back to ancient Greek ''malagma'' meaning a poultice, and the one in the middle says Greek ''malagma'' is probable.

Collins English @ Dictionary.com: 15th Century English: from Medieval Latin amalgama, of obscure origin
Merriam-Webster @ M-W.com: Middle English amalgame, from Middle French, from Medieval Latin amalgama. First Known Use in English: 15th century
Chambers Dict @ ChambersHarrap.co.uk: 15c: from Latin amalgama.
American Heritage @ YourDictionary.com: Middle English, from Old French amalgame, from Medieval Latin amalgama, probably ultimately from Greek malagma, soft mass.
Concise OED @ OxfordDictionaries.com: late 15th century: from French amalgame or medieval Latin amalgama, from Greek malagma 'an emollient'
Webster's New World @ YourDictionary.com: ME < ML amalgama, prob. via Ar < Gr malagma, an emollient < malassein, to soften
Random House @ Dictionary.com: 1425–75; late ME amalgam(e) < MF < ML < dial. Ar al the + malgham < Gk málagma softening agent
As my starting point, here's what's said in the year 1888 etymology dictionary by Walter Skeat:
AMALGAM, a compound of mercury with another metal, a mixture. (French Latin Greek) The restriction in sense to a mixture containing mercury is perhaps unoriginal ; it is probable that the word properly meant 'an emollient;' that afterwards it came to mean 'a pasty mixture,' and at last 'a mixture of a metal with mercury.' Chaucer has ''amalgaming'' (Canterbury Tales, Group G 771). French ''amalgame'', which Cotgrave [year 1611] explains by "a mixture, or incorporation of quicksilver with other metals." 13th century Latin ''amalgama'' (traced by Devic). β. [step down from αlpha confidence] Either a corruption or an alchemist's anagram of [classical] Latin ''malagma'', a mollifying poultice or plaster. [Ancient] Greek ''malagma'', an emollient; also a poultice, plaster [for skin sores], or any soft material. Greek ''malassein'', to soften. Greek ''malakos'', soft.... Addendum. But the derivation from ''malagma'' is not very satisfactory.... Devic thinks it may be Arabic, but fails to prove it so.
ASIDE: Skeat is correct that "amalgaming" is in Chaucer's Canterbury Tales in the 1390s. Therefore the five dictionaries quoted above are incorrect when they say the earliest record of "amalgam" in English is in the 15th century. From Canterbury Tales: "amalgamyng and calcenyng of quyksilver, yclept mercurie crude".
The classical Greek & Latin ''malagma'' is unsatisfactory as a proposed source for the medieval Latin ''amalgama'' because (a) the transposition of 'ag' to 'ga' is not something that happens in Latin, and (b) prepending the 'a' is not something that happens in Latin.

But the mutation from classical ''malagma'' to medieval ''amalgama'' -- if it occurred -- can be readily explained by Arabic intermediation; i.e. by a path of descent Greek --> Arabic --> medieval Latin. When Arabic borrowed words from Greek and Latin, it frequently transposed vowel-and-consonant pairs. Here are three well documented examples: (1) Medieval Arabic ''tilsam'' (the source word of English "talisman") came from early medieval Greek ''telesma''. (2) Medieval Arabic ''ghirbal'' (the source of English "garble") came from Latin ''cribellum'' and the mutation involves transposing ri to ir. (3) The medieval Arabic ''dirham'' money unit came from the Greek ''drachma'' money unit. Similarly the change from the 'ag' of malagma to the 'ga' of amalgama could readily happen in Arabic.

Next, take a look at these entries in Richardson's Arabic-English Dictionary year 1810 and year 1852 editions, notwithstanding that that'll be around six hundred years too late to serve as a precedent for the 13th century Latin:

Year 1810: ملغم ''malgham'' = "a poultice, unguent [medicinal ointment]". (the 1810 edition here)
Year 1852: ملغم ''malgham'' = "An emollient poultice or unguent for sores (especially warm)." (the 1852 edition here)
Note: Richardson's Dictionary has no definition of ''malgham'' in the sense of an amalgam. All of today's Arabic-English dictionaries translate Arabic ''malgham'' as English amalgam, but that's a 20th century development I believe.

Next, English "the" is ''al-'' in Arabic. So ''al-malgham'' = "the poultice", "the medicinal skin dressing". However, in addition, Arabic may use ''al-'' in ways you don't see in English "the". For example "one who offers a choice or option" and "by choice/voluntary" is in Arabic ''mukhayyar''. But the term ''al-mukhayyar'' has the additional very specific meaning of mohair cloth, which arose from the literal "the choice [cloth]", "the select [cloth]". As a more pertinent example, in medieval Arabic, ''qalā'' = "to fry" and ''qali'' = "that which is fried", but ''al-qali'' additionally came to mean sodium carbonate and potassium carbonate derived from the ashes of alkali-rich plants and ''al-qali'' is the source of the 13th century Latin word ''alkali''. Similarly an Arabic ''al-malgham'' can potentially take on a second meaning that's distinctly different from the literal meaning "the poultice".

Next, the Latin word's emergence in the 13th century alchemy texts is without a plausible explanation in terms of Latinate precedents or Latinate linguistics, but we know for sure that Latin borrowed many alchemy words from Arabic in and closely near the 13th century -- including the modern English words alkali, borax, talc, alcohol, elixir, alchemy, alembic, marcasite, natron, realgar, zircon, plus a larger number of alchemy words that are now obsolete. Therefore an Arabic source for "amalgam" is historically congruous.

Next, Arabic ''al-malgham'' becoming Latin ''amalgama'' is an almost perfect fit phonetically. As illustrated already in Arabic ''ghirbal'' becoming English ''garble'' (via Latin languages), the natural way to handle Arabic 'gh' in Latin is 'g'. The dropping of the first 'L' in ''al-malgham'' to arrive at Latin ''amalgama'' is easy to appreciate as convenient by pronouncing "almalgama" a few times; it's a convenient elision.

Next, if you search to web, or just search at Archive.org, it's very clear that mercury was often used in poultice dressings. More than 3000 books at Archive.org contain the three words "mercury" AND "poultice" AND "dressing" (according to this google search). Here's an example from the book ranked number two on the list returned by the search engine. It's a book dated 1881 entitled "Modern Surgical Therapeutics: A Compendium of Current Formulae, Approved Dressings, and Specific Methods''. It contains the word "mercury" on dozens of its pages and here's its general attitude: "The value of mercurials in inflammation, both during its height to arrest its progress, and later to promote absorption, is very great. It is particularly conspicuous in phlegmasias of the fibrous and fibroserous tissues, synovitis, carditis, arteritis, hepatitis, splenitis, osteitis, laryngitis, orchitis, iritis and syphilis. There is, however, a point in inflammatory affections prior to which mercury should not be given." -- Ref. A second random book pick at Archive.org, this a medical journal volume dated 1880: "Pus discharging from the opening, which not being quite free enough, was stimulated by the application of powdered red oxide of mercury." -- Ref.

Historically another metal often used in poultice dressings was lead. The use of lead was at least as common as mercury and probably more so. It died out in the mid-19th century. (The 1881 book quoted above advises against using lead.)

Metal alloys are antibacterial: http://pubs.acs.org/doi/full/10.1021/la050912k. Metal alloys are effective in treating infections on the skin. They aren't used any more because it's undesirable to let metals get into the general blood system, and of course other antibiotics are now available.

The medieval Arabic medical writer Avicenna a.k.a. Ibn Sina (died 1037) gives a formula for making a bandage dressing from a cream of mercury sulfide (cinnabar). He also describes three bandage dressings that use lead carbonate or other lead as the primary agent, and one that uses copper (verdigris) -- Avicenna's "Canon of Medicine", Book Five
 
  • ᴚǝǝƶɐʍɐɈ

    Member
    English
    The French etymology dictionary CNRTL.fr/etymologie/amalgame makes the comment: "The etymon proposition Greek ''malagma'' = "poultice" is a poor fit semantically. The hypothesis that an Arabic etymon issues from the Greek is difficult to accept for the same reason." Anybody who browses through the thousands of old books at Archive.org will be compelled to conclude that old poultice dressings surely and often contained amalgams. Consequently, the hypothesized semantic transfer of ''malgham'' from a poultice to an amalgam is a viable hypothetical. There is no hard evidence that such a transfer took place: Therefore its status is hypothetical. But it is not difficult to accept it as having decent plausibility as a hypothetical.

    One issue I can't answer is how early ''al-malgham'' is attested in Arabic, in any sense. I haven't come across anyone citing it in medieval Arabic, in any sense. The Random House Dictionary quoted above says: "ME < MF < ML < dial. Ar al-malgham < Gk málagma." I have to interpret the "dial." bit in that statement as a euphemism for "unattested in medieval Arabic writings, in any sense". I think I see good indirect evidence that ''al-malgham'' = "poultice" is elderly in Arabic: the Greek ancestor ''malagma'' is not in use in the European languages (including Greek) and I venture to guess that's been true for a long time. A 13th century Arabic-Latin dictionary "Vocabulista in Arabico" (page 366) has Arabic ملزم ''malzam'' = Latin "emplaustrum" = a plaster for sores, a poultice. I believe that derives from the Arabic rootverb لزم ''lazam'' = "to adhere, to stick" and so it is not a variant of the Greek-origin ''malgham''. Another well-documented medieval Arabic word for a dressed bandage is ضماد ''ḍamād''. The fact that ''malgham'' wasn't the usual word in medieval Arabic doesn't substantially weaken the etymology proposition in my view. The thing that does very substantially weaken it is the lack of an attestation of ''al-malgham'' meaning an amalgam in Arabic.

    In summary, I think medieval Latin ''amalgama'' is very likely from some Arabic word and if it's indeed from Arabic then it's very likely from the unattested Arabic ''al-malgham'' = "amalgam" which came from the attested Arabic ''malgham'' = "poultice" which was from Greek ''malagma'' = "poultice".
     

    sokol

    Senior Member
    Austrian (as opposed to Australian)
    And what's the question please?
    The Arabic theory, unproven though it is, is listed in all authoritative dictionaries (in German Kluge as well, by the way). You say it is likely, many have said this before, and all of them, you included could be right - but, I repeat myself, what is the question then?
     

    artion

    Senior Member
    Greek
    The Gr. "malassein" does not only have the meaning of "plastering something on the body" but also "mixing and stirring soft and elastic materials (like dow)".

    You said "...the Greek ancestor ''malagma'' is not in use in the European languages (including Greek) ..."

    This is probably wrong. Medieval and modern Greek preserves a word that connects amalgam with malagma: "Malama" is a vernacular and somewhat poetical word for silver. There is also a woman's name "Malamo" (Μαλάμω). Of course silver is not used pure but as an alloy with other metals, therefore in mixture. It is also related to mercury (quick-silver).
    This Malama does not seem to have any other etymology in Greek, and is quite old word. So, almost certainly comes from malagma, which originally may had the meaning of mixture of precious metals (and mercury was one of them).

    The connection between mercury and silver is not only mythical but has a technical/chemical substrate. Mercury is used by gold-hunters to extract inert precious metals (gold and silver) from sand and soils. During this process a preparation of mercury containing gold and/or silver is prepared, which gives the precious metals after heating and evaporation of mercury. This processes is based on the common chemical properties of mercury with silver and gold. The alchemists suspected this chemical affinity and were trying to turn mercury to silver or gold.

    Transformation of malagma to amalgama may have resulted not accidentally but after some mysterious process in the brains of alchemists. Notice that amalgama is almost palindrome (can be read from right to left). Also sounds more "scientific" or "magic" as it contains the Gr. letter gama (Γ), the initial of Earth (Γη) (one of the 4 elements), still used as a symbol in various sciences causing awe to the unsavvy.
    The transformation is also convenient for some westerners who are accustomed to the flowing -lg- but not to the Gr. --gm-, so, by moving a letter transform -lagm- to -lgam-

    Some more points: alchemy may also be of Gr. origin (chymos = liquid, juice) with arabic article, elixir also from the Gr. verb elisso (ελίσσω) used also in english as elicit. But these are subjects for future [long] essays.
     
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    artion

    Senior Member
    Greek
    Bingo! I had to refresh my knowledge on what "malama" is and I found that mercury was necessary in the silver- and goldsmiths of middle age to make silver- and goldplated things and that a mixture of gold and mercury was indeed soft and dow-like.
    I found this written by an expert on traditional jewelry, in Gr. language: http://www.ageofimmortals.com/shop4/index.php?main_page=page&id=15&chapter=0

    and I translate some parts:

    "During the years of Turkish occupation (in Greece) gold-plating was done with the use of mercury and by the method of coating in layers, "kaplama" in turkish ...."

    "Melting of gold particles .... was done with fire in clay mortar with mercury in a particular ratio ...

    After cleaning the surface with vinegar or lemon, a quality of the viscous (poltos in the Gr. text) mixture of gold and mercury was applied .... Then the object was heated in a kiln ... to evaporate mercury ... ".

    I also found that "malama" means not only "silver" (as I thought) but according to others "gold". After all these I am sure that "malama" comes from "malagma". The word could have come to the West either through the East-West trade or by immigrants from Greece to the West.
     

    ᴚǝǝƶɐʍɐɈ

    Member
    English
    The Arabic theory, unproven though it is, is listed in all authoritative dictionaries ... - what is the question then?
    Of the seven currently in print English dictionaries that I quoted above, five do not mention any Arabic theory. The official dictionary of the Spanish language doesn't take its etymology back any further than medieval Latin. The official dictionary of the French language explicitly rejects the Arabic ''malgham'' theory. As sokol claims to be well informed about what's in all authoritive dictionaries, perhaps he can do the favour of stating what and where is the earliest date of attestation of the Arabic ''malgham''. The question is how much evidence is there for an ''al-malgham'' origin story.
     

    ᴚǝǝƶɐʍɐɈ

    Member
    English
    I am sure that "malama" comes from "malagma".
    It's my attitude that you shouldn't be so sure, but you might be right. If it were true, it would support the proposition that ''amalgam'' descends from ''malgama''. It in no way makes plausible a notion that ''amalgam'' could come from ''malama''.
     

    artion

    Senior Member
    Greek
    If it were true, it would support the proposition that ''amalgam'' descends from ''malgama''. It in no way makes plausible a notion that ''amalgam'' could come from ''malama''.
    Certainly.

    Let me add that the prefix "a-" before malagma (or malgama) sounds familiar in Greek as it is added before the initial consonants in various local accents. It is also added in English (and possibly in other european languages), e.g. align, ablaze, across etc.
     

    CapnPrep

    Senior Member
    AmE
    ASIDE: Skeat is correct that "amalgaming" is in Chaucer's Canterbury Tales in the 1390s. Therefore the five dictionaries quoted above are incorrect when they say the earliest record of "amalgam" in English is in the 15th century. From Canterbury Tales: "amalgamyng and calcenyng of quyksilver, yclept mercurie crude".
    The dictionaries are correct in dating the first attestation of the noun amalgam to the 15th century. The quote from Chaucer involves the verb amalgam (which has fallen out of use, so does not appear in concise on-line dictionaries, but it is dated to the late 14th century in the OED for example). English lexicographers and etymologists may deserve your contempt for many other reasons, but I don't think you can seriously accuse them of being unfamiliar with the Canterbury Tales.
     

    ᴚǝǝƶɐʍɐɈ

    Member
    English
    The dictionaries are correct in dating the first attestation of the noun amalgam to the 15th century. The quote from Chaucer involves the verb amalgam (which has fallen out of use, so does not appear in concise on-line dictionaries, but it is dated to the late 14th century in the OED for example). English lexicographers and etymologists may deserve your contempt for many other reasons, but I don't think you can seriously accuse them of being unfamiliar with the Canterbury Tales.
    You have a point. Still, I say the noun and verb are close enough to count as one for the purpose of deciding earliest date. I see that Webster's New World Dictionary and American Heritage Dictionary think so too: when I type "amalgaming" in the search box at http://www.yourdictionary.com I am brought to the amalgam page.
     

    ᴚǝǝƶɐʍɐɈ

    Member
    English
    According to translate.google.com the Greek ''malama'' word means gold. Wordreference.com in its English-to-Greek dictionary says the Greek for "heart of gold" is "heart of malama". I cannot imagine how one could go semantically from ''malagma'' = "a softening agent" to "malama" = "gold". Well, actually I can imagine it on the grounds that gold is malleable, but I cannot conceive it as likely because gold means so much much more that malleability.

    By the way translate.google.com says the modern Greek word for "emollient" is μαλακτικός malaktikos, which is obviously from the medieval "malagma" word. "Malagma" is in 12th century Latin meaning a poultice and I'd therefore expect it to be in medieval Greek too.
     

    ireney

    Modistra
    Greek Greece Mod of Greek, CC and CD
    According to translate.google.com the Greek ''malama'' word means gold. Wordreference.com in its English-to-Greek dictionary says the Greek for "heart of gold" is "heart of malama". I cannot imagine how one could go semantically from ''malagma'' = "a softening agent" to "malama" = "gold". Well, actually I can imagine it on the grounds that gold is malleable, but I cannot conceive it as likely because gold means so much much more that malleability.

    By the way translate.google.com says the modern Greek word for "emollient" is μαλακτικός malaktikos, which is obviously from the medieval "malagma" word. "Malagma" is in 12th century Latin meaning a poultice and I'd therefore expect it to be in medieval Greek too.
    "Μάλαμα" stands for pure gold though it's used for gold in general. A rather soft, malleable substance, pure gold.

    As for "μαλακτικός" I'm afraid "μαλακτικός" is not from the the medieval "malagma" word. It's from the ancient Greek verb "μαλάσσω".
     

    artion

    Senior Member
    Greek
    Μαλακτικός is also produced from the v. malasso.
    I know that I should never be 100% sure about words origins, so I reduce my certainty to 95%, having in mind some other examples where -agma (or -egma) becomes -ama (or -ema) in Gr., sometimes altering the meaning, too, as in the case of malama:
    πράγμα - πράμα (object).
    πείραγμα (teasing) - πείραμα (experiment).
    τάγμα (order) - τάμα (votive offering, dedication).
    βρεγμένος - βρεμένος (wet).
     

    artion

    Senior Member
    Greek
    Chronologically, malama seems to be older than amalgama.
    It is attested (meaning gold) in:
    - History of Appolonius of Tyre, the manuscript of which is dated to 9th-10th century but assumed to a much older Greek story.
    - The Nuptials of Theseus (De Nuptiis Thesei) attributed to Bocaccio but assumed to exist before him as a "Greco-barbarian" poem.

    Carolus Du Fresne DU CANGE, Glossarium ad scriptores mediae et infirmae graecitatis, word "malama", p. 858.

    http://books.google.gr/books?id=lIyIJCC_ctEC&pg=RA4-PA44&lpg=RA4-PA44&dq=fr.+richardum+scuto+fidei&source=bl&ots=hFa8i1ZFFf&sig=jFIxd0hTUYxRNuMlRW5fp_yDxpo&hl=el&ei=XrshTanaAo2r8QPZp4jmBQ&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=result&resnum=1&ved=0CBkQ6AEwAA#v=onepage&q=fr.%20richardum%20scuto%20fidei&f=false
     

    djara

    Senior Member
    Tunisia Arabic
    . As sokol claims to be well informed about what's in all authoritive dictionaries, perhaps he can do the favour of stating what and where is the earliest date of attestation of the Arabic ''malgham''. The question is how much evidence is there for an ''al-malgham'' origin story.
    Lisan al-Arab, Ibn Mandhour's Arabic dictionary, compiled in the 13th century says the following under the "l-gh-m" root:
    وكلُّ جوهر ذوّاب كالذهب ونحوه خُلِط بالزَّاوُوق مُلْغَمٌ، وقد أُلْغِمَ فالْتَغَمَ.
    Any melting substance such as gold, etc. mixed with mercury is "molgham";
    the last two words are verbal forms coined from "molgham": "ulghima" [it was amalgamated] and "iltaghama" [it became amalgamated]
     

    origumi

    Senior Member
    N/A
    Hebrew has root l-kh-m which means to join, attach. Attested in 5th-6th century (ויקרא רבה, ויקרא, פ' ג ס'ג). Later got the meaning of welding, soldering (but this is maybe under Arabic influence). Could be a cognate of Arabic l-gh-m.
     

    ᴚǝǝƶɐʍɐɈ

    Member
    English
    Lisan al-Arab, Ibn Mandhour's Arabic dictionary, compiled in the 13th century says the following under the "l-gh-m" root:
    وكلُّ جوهر ذوّاب كالذهب ونحوه خُلِط بالزَّاوُوق مُلْغَمٌ، وقد أُلْغِمَ فالْتَغَمَ.
    Any melting substance such as gold, etc. mixed with mercury is "molgham";
    the last two words are verbal forms coined from "molgham": "ulghima" [it was amalgamated] and "iltaghama" [it became amalgamated]
    The complete Lisan al-'Arab by Muhammad ibn Mukarram Ibn Manzur (also spelled Ibn Mandhour) is online and downloadable in twenty volumes at Archive.org. The link to the twenty volumes is here. After several false starts I found the volume and the page number that talks about the "L-Gh-M" root. The "L-Gh-M" entry is viewable online here -- pages numbered 18 and 19. It does not contain the sentence quoted above by djara!! It does use the word ''malgham'' several times. Also ''al-malgham''. My knowledge of Arabic is poor enough that I wasn't able to figure out what he was saying, not even with the assistance an Arabic-English dictionary. He says quite a lot, but it's mostly grammatical stuff, not semantic stuff. I may go back to it and try harder to understand it later. Or maybe someone with good Arabic could take a look and tell us the semantics of "al-malgham" as used in that 13th century book.

    Meanwhile, re-acting on djara's hint above, I looked for an "L-Gh-M" word the 13th century Latin-Arabic dictionary ''Vocabulista is Arabico'' -- downloadable. This dictionary contains the Latin word "comiscere", which is an alternative spelling of the Latin "commiscere", which is Latin for mixing and blending. And that is translated to the Arabic word لَغْمَنَه ''laghmanah''. The gramatically associated forms نِلَغْمَنْ‎ ''nilaghman'' and يَتْلَغْمَنْ ''yatlaghman'' are also listed. This dictionary was written in Spain and reflects the Spanish and Maghrebi Arabic of the 13th century. Additionally the dictionary translates the Latin "comiscere" as Arabic خلط ''khalt'' = "mixing, blending" and also as Arabic مزج ''mazj'' = "mixing, blending" Pages 302 and 173. By the way the English-Latin dictionary by William Whitaker, a good Latin-English dictionary, online here, translates Latin "commiscere" as "intermingle, mix together/up, combine (ingredients); unite/join sexually; mingle (with another race); transact business (w/cum), discuss; confuse." Question for anyone who knows Arabic: Am I right in thinking that Arabic allows one to form ''malgham'' = "a mix, a blend" from ''laghmanah'' = "mixing, blending"? I think sticking ''ma-" in front of ''laghmanah'' can legally generate ''malgham(a)nah'', as an alternative form of ''malaghmanah''. So that ''laghmanah'' = "mixing" is evidence of an Arabic ''al-malgham'' = "the mix" in the 13th century?
     

    Josh_

    Senior Member
    U.S., English
    The complete Lisan al-'Arab by Muhammad ibn Mukarram Ibn Manzur (also spelled Ibn Mandhour) is online and downloadable in twenty volumes at Archive.org. The link to the twenty volumes is here. After several false starts I found the volume and the page number that talks about the "L-Gh-M" root. The "L-Gh-M" entry is viewable online here -- pages numbered 18 and 19. It does not contain the sentence quoted above by djara!! It does use the word ''malgham'' several times. Also ''al-malgham''. My knowledge of Arabic is poor enough that I wasn't able to figure out what he was saying, not even with the assistance an Arabic-English dictionary. He says quite a lot, but it's mostly grammatical stuff, not semantic stuff. I may go back to it and try harder to understand it later.
    Oh boy, you're doing it the hard way. The entire Lisan Al-Arab is available online here. Simply type in the Arabic root or word you are looking for in the search function and you will be automatically directed to the relevant page(s). Djara's quote appears three lines up starting from the last line of the text in the blue box.
    Or maybe someone with good Arabic could take a look and tell us the semantics of "al-malgham" as used in that 13th century book.
    I'll offer what I understand of it. First, though, I should say, that while Ibn Manzuur sometimes offers a simple definition, he was basically a compiler, so he wrote down what others said.

    Specifically searching for مَلْغَم (malgham) under the لغم (l-gh-m) heading here is what I found:

    والمَلْغَمُ الفمُ والأَنْف وما حولهما.
    (al-malgham: the mouth and nose and [those parts of the face] around them).

    والمَلْغَمُ والمَلاغِم: ما حول الفم الذي يبلغه اللسان، ...سمي بذلك لأَنه موضع اللُّغامِ.
    Al-malgham and [the plural] al-malaaghim: those areas around the mouth that the tongue can reach...so termed because it is the place [where one would find] lughaam [around the mouth].

    Al-lughaam is defined as:

    ولُغام البعير: زَبَدُه.
    Lughaam of a camel: the froth/foam [around the mouth].

    واللُّغامُ: زَبَدُ أَفواهِ الإِبل، والرُّوالُ للفرس
    "Al-lughaam": froth/foam [around] the mouths of camels, and the spittle/saliva of horses.

    And also said of humans:
    اللُّعاب للإِنسان
    البُزاقِ أَو اللُّعاب من الإِنسان
    The spittle/saliva of humans.

    ويقال لَغَمْتُ المرأَة أَلْغَمُها إِذا قبَّلْت مَلْغَمها؛
    One could say: laghamtu a woman or alghamu her, meaning I kissed her malgham (those areas around the mouth).


    The base verb لَغِمَ means:

    لَغِمَ لَغَماً ولَغْماً: وهو استِخْبارُه عن الشيء لا يستيقنه وإِخبارُه عنه غير مستيقن أَيضاً.
    laghima, and (verbal nouns) lagham and laghm: asking someone about something of which he is unsure; and also informing someone of something that you are unsure of.

    Also from the same root we find the verb talaghghama: meaning to put (perfume) on the malgham (those areas around the mouth):

    وتلَغَّمْت بالطِّيب إِذا جعلته في المَلاغِم؛
    (I) talaghghamtu bi 'T-Tayb: I put perfume on my malaaghim (plural of malgham).

    وقد تلَغَّمَت المرأَةُ بالزعفران والطِّيب؛
    A woman talaghghamat with saffron and perfume: she put them on her malgham.

    The following appears after the text above:

    والمَلْغَم طرف أَنفه
    malgham: the tip of the nose.

    So, apparently the above sentences may also mean that "I put perfume on the tip of my nose" and "she put perfume on the tip of her nose," respectively.
    -------

    None of the above seems relevant to the discussion at hand.

    The only relevant part seems to be that part translated by Djara. (Note that the word here is مُلْغَم mulgham (or molgham depending on preferred transliteration) with a Damma (ــُـ), and not مَلْغَم malgham with a fatHa (ــَـ)). So, in sum: mulgham -- an amalgamation or alloy (of a metal) with mercury; and the verb alghama -- to amalgamate or alloy (a metal) with mercury. And the passive also occurs: ulghima -- to be amalgamated or alloyed (of a metal) with mercury; and the medio-passive: iltaghama --to become amalgamated or alloyed (of a metal) with mercury.
     
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    ᴚǝǝƶɐʍɐɈ

    Member
    English
    First of all, my thanks to Josh_ for the excellent reply.

    Second, Josh_ is correct that the sentence quoted by djara is in the Lisan al-Arab. Besides being in the copy of the Lisan al-Arab that Josh linked to, it is also in the copy of the Lisan al-Arab that I linked to earlier. I'm sorry for being a dimwit and for not being more careful.

    The sentence quoted by djara once again is:
    وكلُّ جوهر ذوّاب كالذهب ونحوه خُلِط بالزَّاوُوق مُلْغَمٌ، وقد أُلْغِمَ فالْتَغَمَ.
    Any melting substance such as gold, etc. mixed with mercury is "molgham"
    The Lisan al-Arab dates from 1290, while the earliest uses of "amalgama" in Latin are earlier in the same century. Nevertheless the above quote from the Lisan al-Arab is good evidence that the Latin came from this Arabic L-Gh-M word. The 13th century Latin-Arabic dictionary ''Vocabulista is Arabico'' has the further supporting evidence that it tranlates Latin "comiscere" ("commiscere", to mix) as Arabic لَغْمَنَه ''laghmanah'', the same L-Gh-M root.

    Therefore I think djara has actually found the origin of the medieval Latin "amalgam" in Arabic L-Gh-M, or at least has probably found it.

    Today all European languages have the word "amalgam" and all the European dictionaries say either that the origin of the medieval Latin is obscure or else say that it is probably ultimately from a Greek word "malagma" meaning a poultice, which is a different proposition from the L-Gh-M proposition. The fact that none of today's etymology dictionaries are aware of the information in the above two 13th century dictionaries and especially the Lisan al-Arab, goes to show -- as I've said before -- the etymologies in today's dictionaries can't be trusted to be based on good research. The dictionaries are mere compilers of the generally accepted etymology stories. They don't do research of their own. They don't have employees who would look up the L-Gh-M possibility in the Lisan al-Arab.
     

    artion

    Senior Member
    Greek
    from a Greek word "malagma" meaning a poultice, ...
    The word does exist:
    (De Cagne (1610-1688), Glossarium: http://www.uni-mannheim.de/mateo/camenaref/ducange/bd3/jpg/s0401.html). In this latin glossarium he gives the pharmaceutical sense of malagma. But in the Greek glossarium, under malagmata (plural of malagma) refers to its use by chemists (glossis chymicis) but I don't understand well the meaning. Possibly says "everything fair (or yellow) and finalized (complete)". (http://anemi.lib.uoc.gr/php/pdf_pager.php?filename=/var/www/anemi-portal//metadata/f/4/b/attached-metadata-01-0000493/85778_01.pdf&pageno=482&pagestart=1&width=641&height=967&maxpage=691&lang=en p. 482 of the pager, p. 855 of the original text). The Gr. word malama (that I mentioned earlier) is found in the next page with the meaning of Aureus (gold), first attested in "Apollonius of Tyre" (before 6th c. ?).
     

    ᴚǝǝƶɐʍɐɈ

    Member
    English
    I'd like to say thanks to Josh_ once again for the outstanding reply. Thanks Josh_.

    I have a 12th century Latin dictionary that defines "malagma" as a poulice or plaster dressing. But the word "malagma" cannot generate the word "amalgam" in Latin (or Greek). So Artion's comment about what's in Du Cange's dictionary is beside the point.
     

    popckorn

    Senior Member
    Spanish - Mexican
    I reckon the symbol used for mercury (a cross with a horned circle on top of it) meant several different things, not just metal mercury, but psychic and spiritual processes, I dont know more than that, but I think it is QUITE germane to bring them up, in case anyone knows them, to provide for a certain subtle context in this matter. Alchemy was not only about metals, but an "amalgam" in itself, with other incipien sciences such as psychology and pseudosciences such as astrology and mentalism.

    I hope providing the different contexts in which the symbol for mercury was coded will give us better hints on the genealogy of these words.
     

    ancalimon

    Senior Member
    Turkish
    I reckon the symbol used for mercury (a cross with a horned circle on top of it) meant several different things, not just metal mercury, but psychic and spiritual processes, I dont know more than that, but I think it is QUITE germane to bring them up, in case anyone knows them, to provide for a certain subtle context in this matter. Alchemy was not only about metals, but an "amalgam" in itself, with other incipien sciences such as psychology and pseudosciences such as astrology and mentalism.

    I hope providing the different contexts in which the symbol for mercury was coded will give us better hints on the genealogy of these words.
    I think one should really consider looking at things related to shamans and the symbols related to them when talking about things such as alchemy and ancient sciences (or pseudoscience). Of course this is not the place to talk about shamans and witches that were thrown to deep waters with a rocks tied to their legs. So I guess we will have to make do with what is at hand.

    I guess that mercury symbol might have been some kind of symbolic sentence.
     
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    Ben Jamin

    Senior Member
    Polish
    Certainly.

    Let me add that the prefix "a-" before malagma (or malgama) sounds familiar in Greek as it is added before the initial consonants in various local accents. It is also added in English (and possibly in other european languages), e.g. align, ablaze, across etc.
    The "a" in align, ablaze, etc was not added without a specific function, but as a preposition to form a new word, so it doesn't compare with your Greek example.
     
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