I'm looking for the key differences between combination and amalgamation. The differences between their verb forms (combine and amalgamate) is just as acceptable to me.

Combination: the act or an instance of combining; the process of being combined; (a more specific sub-definition:) the state of being joined or united in such a way

Amalgamation: the action, process, or result of combining or uniting

These two, denotatively at least, seem very similar; are there any glaring differences that I'm unaware of?

I'm looking for something that captures that unity and harmony of the combination's/amalgamation's end result, if that helps.


'Amalgam' (avoid amalgamation unless you are actually referring to a process) is precisely the wrong word to use if you're trying to emphasize unity and harmony of the result. 'Combination' is rather neutral. 'Union' or 'blend' would be better.

  • Honestly I'm quite puzzled (and annoyed) at why I didn't just use union in the first place haha. Thanks for that. What do you think about harmonious blend. Redundant? – Qcom Jan 5 '12 at 4:02

Since I have done some research - amalgamation is the process of rearranging items, while the combination is the way items are ordered. For example when we are talking about numbers we will use combination. When we are working with groups like in free product operation we are using amalgamation .

  • I don't believe amalgamation strictly refers to rearranging. To amalgamate is to join. – Jimi Oke Jan 4 '12 at 15:38
  • Well, there are a words with a lot of meanings. Are you sure you have checked that one ? When we have union of sets the elements that are in both sets will appear only once and we are not interested in the order the elements are ordered in the result set, hence it is amalgamation. – speedyGonzales Jan 5 '12 at 6:38

Though they have similar meaning when you look at the word Amalgamation in science perspective it gives a very distinct meaning than combination. In science An Amalgam is a substance formed by the reaction of mercury with another metal. So the process of producing Amalgam is called Amalgamation. FYI : http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Amalgam_(chemistry)


To understand the distinction between combination and amalgam, I think it's helpful to start by looking at the distinction between amalgam and alloy.

To make an alloy, all the metals to be combined are heated enough to melt them, then they are mixed thoroughly, then allowed to cool.

To make an amalgam, only one of the metals is heated enough to melt it; the other remains solid. Since mercury is liquid at room temperature, you can make a mercury amalgam at room temperature, with another metal that is solid at room temperature. The mercury combines with the outer area of the solid metal but normally doesn't reach the inner area. So the combined part is effectively a thick, uneven coating, covering lumps of the unaffected solid metal.

So when amalgam is used in other contexts, it's a sort of lumpy combination; thoroughly mixed on the outside but not on the inside.

Frankly, I think amalgam is grossly overused outside its literal meaning, by people who just want to use an impressive word.

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