I know chemist means someone who sells medicines or drugs. However, we use physicist for someone who studies/researches physics, and so will anyone naturally understand.

But it has always confused me why don't we use chemist similarly, and selling medicines is not completely related to studying chemistry. So what is the word's origins and why did its meaning came to be so unnatural?

  • 3
    Just because medicine is unrelated to chemistry today, doesn't mean that was the case when the word was actually coined. And wait a minute, how do you mean medicine is unrelated to chemistry today? It very much is, and always will be.
    – RegDwigнt
    Apr 24, 2014 at 8:52
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    The word chemist is also used in a parallel meaning to physicist
    – oerkelens
    Apr 24, 2014 at 8:54
  • @RegDwigнt Of course it is, but if you say only medicines is chemistry, it would be wrong. That is what I meant.
    – Sawarnik
    Apr 24, 2014 at 8:57
  • @Sawarnik I thought the term was used for a scientist that works in the field of chemistry/physics. I would call someone that sells medicines and drugs a pharmacist or a druggist, and would refer to a person that prepares medications as a pharmacist exclusively.
    – Elian
    Apr 24, 2014 at 9:06
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    @ Nourished Gourmet The term "chemist's" (and certainly not the US "drugstore") is by far the most common way of referring to a pharmacist's in the UK. Apr 24, 2014 at 9:15

2 Answers 2


chemist (n.) 1560s, chymist, "alchemist," from Middle French chimiste, from Medieval Latin chimista, reduced from alchimista (see alchemy). Modern spelling is from c.1790. Meaning "chemical scientist" is from 1620s; meaning "dealer in medicinal drugs" (mostly in British English) is from 1745.

Alchemist(n.) 1510s, from Middle French alquemiste, from Medieval Latin alchimista (see alchemy). Earlier forms were alchemister (late 14c.), alkanamyer (late 15c.).


Actually they used to produce medicines themselves, and some of them still do it today for simple prescriptions.


Chemistry comes from alchemy, which comes from Arabic "al Khem". Khem is the name of the civilization once found in what is now called Egypt.

  • Welcome to ELU. However I don't think your answer is particularly relevant to the question which is based on a misunderstanding. Jun 9, 2019 at 8:10

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