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Wikipedia credits Bourbaki with coining it, but doesn't provide a source. Does anyone happen to know the motivation for using this term?

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Perhaps you should add the (ho.history-overview) tag? –  Alex Becker Jul 25 '12 at 22:33
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One theory I've seen is that the term comes from the (perceived) primordial, amorphous nature of molten rock –  Yemon Choi Jul 25 '12 at 22:36
    
A similar thing was asked here english.stackexchange.com/questions/63210/… –  quid Jul 25 '12 at 22:48
    
My answer seems to agree with the stack exchange one. –  Benjamin Steinberg Jul 25 '12 at 22:52
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So it isn't a typo for gamma? Gerhard "Commutative Algebra Is For Lysdexics" Paseman, 2012.07.25 –  Gerhard Paseman Jul 25 '12 at 23:47

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The second definition in http://www.larousse.com/en/dictionnaires/francais/magma/48543 would seem to answer your question and agrees with the wiki page.

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Interesting that the French use the word in several ways, but English has only the one meaning, the geological. –  Lubin Jul 26 '12 at 5:15
    
This definitely seems like the most likely explanation. Thanks a lot! –  Xander Flood Aug 5 '12 at 20:33

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