An alembic (from Arabic al-anbīq الأنبيق, from Greek ἄμβυξ ambyx possibly from Semitic) is an alchemical still consisting of two vessels connected by a tube. Technically, the alembic is the lid with a tube attachment (the capital or still-head), which is placed on top of a flask, the cucurbit, containing the material to be distilled, but the word is often used to refer to the entire distillation apparatus. If the lid and flask are in one piece, it may be called a retort. The liquid in the first flask is heated or boiled; the vapour rises and flows into the tube, where it cools and condenses, running into the second flask.
The word "alembic" is also used metaphorically for anything that refines or transmutes, as if by distillation (as in "the alembic of creative thought"). The word, like most alchemical terminology, comes from the Arabic: al-anbīq, meaning "still". The French spelling alambic is also commonly used, especially as the apparatus is often associated with cognac where it is known as alambic charentais (Charente alembic). In Shakespeare's plays, the older variant "limbeck" appears.
The alembic symbol is Unicode U+2697 ALEMBIC (⚗).
The earliest appearances of alembics are to be found in the works of ancient Greek alchemists who conducted the first documented scientific studies on distillation. This work was extended during the Middle Ages by Muslim alchemists like Jābir ibn Hayyān.
See also 
- Forbes, Robert James (1970) A Short History of the Art of Distillation: from the beginnings up to the death of Cellier Blumenthal. Leyden: E. J. Brill ISBN 978-90-04-00617-1; p. 23
- Encyclopædia Britannica 1911, Alchemy.
- Forbes, Robert James (1970) A Short History of the Art of Distillation: from the beginnings up to the death of Cellier Blumenthal. Leyden: E. J. Brill ISBN 978-90-04-00617-1; pp. 20-23
|Wikisource has the text of the 1911 Encyclopædia Britannica article Alembic.|