Word Corner - Alcohol

*Alcohol* Originally *alcohol* was a powder, not a drink. The word *alcohol* is from the Arabic _al-kuhl_, meaning ‘the kohl‘. _Kohl_ was made from powdered antimony, a metallic chemical element. Subsequently the word *alcohol* was used for any spirit produced by distillation, and later still for any intoxicating drink, regardless of whether produced by distillation or fermentation. The Arabic ‘_al_‘ (‘the‘) is found in other English words such as: _alchemy_ (_al kimiya_, the art of transmuting base metals into gold); _alcove_ (_al qubba_, the vaulted chamber); _algebra_ (_al-jebr_, bone-setting, or the reduction of parts to make a whole); and _alkali_ (_al-qali_, the ashes of plants such as saltwort, growing on alkaline soil).

mag cover This article is from the July 2002 issue of New Internationalist.
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