(Latin: Medieval Latin amalgama, perhaps from malagma, "poultice" or "plaster")

amalgam (s) (noun), amalgams (pl)
1. A combination or blend of diverse things: The speaker confused his audience with his amalgams of unrelated references to issues that needed attention in the local government.
2. Any alloy (or "mixture of metals") of mercury with another metal or other metals: Pure metals are rarely ever used, instead they are deliberately mixed in order to produce hundreds of new substances with desirable qualities that are not available except with amalgams.

The term amalgam has been used for more than 150 years in dental restorations; only gold has been used longer for this purpose.

Are Amalgam Fillings in the Teeth a Danger to One's Health?

It is silver amalgam (mercury plus several metals, mainly silver) and no silver by itself that is used for "silver fillings" in teeth.

The amalgam is soft enough to knead (squeeze or press) into the cavity, while chemical reactions harden it after waiting for a short time.

It is known that a fraction of the mercury in amalgam is absorbed by the body and that people with amalgam restorations in their teeth have higher concentrations of mercury in various tissues (including the blood, urine, kidneys, and brain) than people without amalgam fillings.

It was not until about 1980 that serious consideration was given to the possibility that mercury vapor escaping from amalgam fillings might be affecting health, specifically producing subtle effects on the central nervous system. Such effects have been reported among dentists and other dental personnel, whose exposures are well below industrial levels but above those from fillings alone.

In 1993, the Public Health Service of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services published a report acknowledging that scientific data are insufficient to conclude that amalgam fillings have compromised health. Furthermore, there is no evidence that removal of amalgam fillings has a beneficial effect on one's health; however, there are others who claim that over time, there is serious health damage.

Apparently, further studies will be needed to determine whether the combined exposure to the metals in dental amalgam may lower a person's condition for adverse immunological reactions.

—Compiled from information located in
"About Dental Amalgam Fillings" at
U.S. Department of Health & Human Services
A mixture or a blend of an alloy of mercury and another metal.
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amalgam retort (s) (noun), amalgam retorts (pl)
A vessel where substances are distilled or decomposed by heat: An amalgam retort involves mercury that is distilled off from gold or silver mixtures.
amalgam treatment (s) (noun), amalgam treatments (pl)
The process of extracting metal from ore using chemicals; such as, mercury: The mine engineers attempted to design an amalgam treatment that would not harm the environment; in other words, developing a metal extraction process that did not rely on toxic substances.
amalgamate (verb), amalgamates; amalgamated; amalgamating
1. To combine two or more organizations or things into one unified whole, or to take the form of one unified whole: The two airlines amalgamated into one company.
2. To blend with another metal; to alloy a metal with mercury, or to be alloyed with mercury: Silver must be amalgamated with a harder material in order to make durable jewelry.
3. Etymology: from 1660, in Boyle's New Experiments, verb use of earlier (1642-1647) participle amalgamate, perhaps it was borrowed from Medieval Latin amalgamatus, past participle of amalgamare, "to mix, to blend".

Originally, amalgamate was a mixing of an alloy or metal with mercury; however, now it usually means "to combine a number of elements into a whole"; such as, when two company boards vote to amalgamate their firms into one organization.

amalgamation (s) (noun), amalgamations (pl)
1. An activity, process, or result of combining or uniting something: There has been an amalgamation of the two competing companies into one organization.
2. The mixing of mercury with another metal, or metals, to form an alloy: The jewelry manufacturer used an amalgamation of silver and stronger metals to create a design that was both durable and beautiful.
3. The process for the separation of metal from a base ore using such a chemical as mercury: The mine engineer explained that the amalgamation of gold was a complicated chemical process.
amalgamation pan (s) (noun), amalgamation pans (pl)
An iron container in which precious metal ores can be ground with water and further treated with mercury and chemicals until extractions of the metals are completed; used especially, formerly, to separate gold from its ore: Before all the fancy terminology and processes, the early gold miners used a shallow pan, the precursor to the amalgamation pan, and utilized water to separate gold from the rocks and gravel.
amalgamation table, amalgamation plate (s) (noun); amalgamation tables, amalgamation plates (pl)
A flat metal surface on which mercury is spread so it will bind with gold particles as gold-bearing ore is washed over it: The miners were required to wear face masks when working near the amalgamation table because of the chemical process that was being used.
amalgamationist (s) (noun), amalgamationists (pl)
An individual or an organization that advocated the blending of two races; specifically, "whites" and "blacks": "A blending of the two races by amalgamation is just what is needed for the perfection of both," a white Boston clergyman, who was an amalgamationist, wrote in 1845.

Few American abolitionists were proponents of amalgamation, but many were called amalgamationists by proslaveryites in the two decades or so before the Civil War in the U.S.

This American term of amalgamationist has been applied to anyone who favors a social and genetic mixture of whites and blacks and was first recorded in 1838, when Harriet Martineau complained that people were calling her an amalgamationist when she didn't even know what the word meant.

Harriet Martineau (June 12, 1802–June 27, 1876) was an English writer and philosopher, renowned in her day as a controversial journalist, political economist, abolitionist and "a life-long feminist".

—Based on information from
Encyclopedia of Word and Phrase Origins by Robert Hendrickson;
Facts On File, Inc.; New York; 1997; page 20.

Amalgamationist quotes

1. White America is definitely and unalterably opposed to the integration and amalgamation of the two races.
2. Black America, the masses, are equally opposed to the integration and amalgamation of the races.
3. The drive for more and more amalgamation is, and always has been spearheaded by those "coloureds" who maintain a separatist society within the black race, and who are not, and never have been, identified with the black masses.
—From "Black Political Party"
amalgamator (s) (noun), amalgamators (pl)
1. A machine used to bring powdered ore in close contact with mercury: An amalgamator is utilized to get the metals contained in the ore separated from the dirt so they can be recovered and saved.
2. A machine for mixing mercury and an alloy to make a dental compound: The amalgamator measured the quantities of mercury and alloy that were placed in a capsule, which was rapidly vibrated for a few seconds by means of an electric motor.
copper amalgam (s) (noun), copper amalgams (pl)
A dental compound consisting of mercury and copper: Unlike a silver and tin alloy, copper amalgam is prepared a moment before use by heating the required quantity over a flame. The alloy then melts and remains plastic for enough time to use, even at room temperature.

Copper amalgam usually stays in place after it has been inserted into the tooth cavity.

dental amalgam (s) (noun), dental amalgams (pl)
A soft mixture of mercury and alloys of silver, tin, and copper that becomes very hard when set and has been used to fill tooth cavities: Now, applications of dental amalgams are being replaced with another plastic-type of filling, or gold, etc.