Amalgam vs. amalgamation

  • Amalgam means a combination of diverse elements. Amalgamation is sometimes used in the same sense—and dictionaries list it as a variant of amalgam—but today it’s often used to refer to the act of combining diverse elements. So an amalgam is created through amalgamation.


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    In these examples, amalgam denotes the combination resulting from the mixture of diverse elements:

    Unlike Tunisia and Egypt, Libya as a country is actually an amalgam of about 140 tribes and clans. [NPR]

    Marcel had tried to evoke the amalgam of America and 17th-century France that has made such an indelible impression on this enigmatic corner of rural Louisiana. [Telegraph]

    Anyone with an ability to turn on a television set knows that the Tudor rose was an amalgam of the white and red rose factions from the dynastic war. [New Zealand Herald]


    In these examples, amalgamation refers to the act of mixing diverse elements:

    Coburn was mayor of Cumberland in pre-amalgamation Ottawa for about a decade. [Ottawa Citizen]

    The greatest legends, the supreme myths, are founded on an amalgamation of opposites. [Washington Post]

    The amalgamation in August last year made SNH the Scottish government’s statutory adviser on deer. [BBC News]

    And in these sentences, amalgamation would bear replacement with amalgam:

    Swisher also was an amalgamation of 93 franchisees all working out of their trucks.  [Forbes]

    Modigliani’s art is a timid amalgamation of primitivism, African masks, Cycladic idols, the machine aesthetic, Art Nouveau and Old Master paintings. [Wall Street Journal]


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