Question #36628

1 Answer
Jun 16, 2017

It helps if you know the origins of the words.


The word "chemistry" comes from Greek and Arabic.

# stackrelcolor(blue)("Greek")("khemeoia") → stackrelcolor(blue)("Arabic")("al-kimiya") → stackrelcolor(blue)("Medieval Latin")("alkimia") → stackrelcolor(blue)("Modern Latin")("chimicus") → stackrelcolor(blue)("English")("chemistry")#

Khemeoia was "the art of transmuting metals", and al is the Arabic word for "the".

The Arabic word al-kimiya also gives us the English word "alchemy", and the alchemists were the early chemists.

#stackrelcolor(blue)("Arabic")("al-qaliy") → stackrelcolor(blue)("French")("alcali") → stackrelcolor(blue)("Middle English")("alkali")#

The Arabic al-qaliy means "the ashes", especially the ashes of the saltwort plant. For several centuries, the Bedouins transported the ashes to Palestine in huge caravans.

The ashes contained large amounts of soda ash (#"Na"_2"CO"_3#), and they were mixed with olive oil or tallow to make soap.

Sodium carbonate is quite alkaline, and the reaction of fats and oils with alkalis to make soap is an important chemical reaction.