General English

  • adjective relating to chemistry


  • adjective referring to chemistry or chemicals
  • adjective made by humans from a combination of substances or chemical elements and not produced naturally
  • noun a substance formed of chemical elements or produced by a chemical process


  • noun a substance used in or made by a chemical process


  • Pertaining to chemistry.


  • noun a substance formed by reactions between elements, obtained by or used in chemical processes
  • noun a chemical weapon

Origin & History of “chemical”

Essentially chemical, and the related chemistry and chemist, come from alchemy with the initial al- dropped. Alchemy itself is of Arabic origin; al represents the Arabic definite article ‘the’, while the second element was borrowed from Greek khēmíā ‘alchemy’. Loss of al- seems to have taken place originally in French, so the immediate source of the English words was French chimiste and chimique (whence the now obsolete English chemic, on which chemical was based). At first this whole group of words continued to be used in the same sense as its progenitor alchemy; it is not really until the 17th century that we find it being consistently applied to what we would now recognize as the scientific discipline of chemistry.