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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    $\begingroup$ One theory I've seen is that the term comes from the (perceived) primordial, amorphous nature of molten rock $\endgroup$
    – Yemon Choi
    Jul 25, 2012 at 22:36
  • $\begingroup$ A similar thing was asked here english.stackexchange.com/questions/63210/… $\endgroup$
    – user9072
    Jul 25, 2012 at 22:48
  • $\begingroup$ My answer seems to agree with the stack exchange one. $\endgroup$ Jul 25, 2012 at 22:52
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    $\begingroup$ So it isn't a typo for gamma? Gerhard "Commutative Algebra Is For Lysdexics" Paseman, 2012.07.25 $\endgroup$ Jul 25, 2012 at 23:47

2 Answers 2


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.

Update: here is what the link said to avoid broken links as YCor pointed out.

nom masculin (latin magma, résidu, du grec magma)

Mélange formant une masse pâteuse, épaisse : Magma informe.

Mélange confus, inextricable de choses abstraites : Ces propositions constituent un magma incohérent.

Matériau constitué de liquide et de cristaux en proportions variables, qui se forme à l'intérieur de la Terre et qui, en refroidissant, forme une roche.

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    $\begingroup$ Interesting that the French use the word in several ways, but English has only the one meaning, the geological. $\endgroup$
    – Lubin
    Jul 26, 2012 at 5:15
  • $\begingroup$ This definitely seems like the most likely explanation. Thanks a lot! $\endgroup$ Aug 5, 2012 at 20:33
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    $\begingroup$ The link is broken. Possibly it matches with larousse.fr/dictionnaires/francais/magma/48543, but copying the contents would prevent the answer become obsolete when the Larousse page is edited. $\endgroup$
    – YCor
    Apr 8, 2018 at 18:02

Wikipedia also says that "magma" is used by Serre in his book Lie algebras and lie groups: 1964 Lectures given at Harvard University. This seems to be the case (at least for the 1992 Springer reprint that I have access to.) Is this the earliest use in print of "magma" in this sense?


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