What does Philosopher mean in Britain? Obviously it's not the American meaning or the book & movie wouldn't have changed the title for the USA.

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    The Philosopher's Stone – Valorum Apr 14 '20 at 18:59
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    If you want to accept an answer, you can by clicking on the checkmark by the voting buttons as per the tour. – FuzzyBoots Apr 14 '20 at 19:05
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    Just to answer the English language portion of the question. The word philosopher does not have regional variations, it means a thinker, everywhere. The word 'philosopher' is not a British variant of the word 'sorcerer'. The change in titles actually does change the meaning. – AJFaraday Apr 17 '20 at 10:52
  • The question should include the book and movie title. In many country, the title was not changed. When the question is about Book title "Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone" vs Movie title "Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone". – Drag and Drop Apr 17 '20 at 13:24

As per Valorum's comment, the Philosopher's Stone is a legendary alchemical item.

The philosopher's stone, more properly philosophers' stone or stone of the philosophers (Latin: lapis philosophorum) is a legendary alchemical substance capable of turning base metals such as mercury into gold (chrysopoeia, from the Greek χρυσός khrusos, "gold", and ποιεῖν poiēin, "to make") or silver. It is also called the elixir of life, useful for rejuvenation and for achieving immortality; for many centuries, it was the most sought goal in alchemy. The philosophers' stone was the central symbol of the mystical terminology of alchemy, symbolizing perfection at its finest, enlightenment, and heavenly bliss. Efforts to discover the philosophers' stone were known as the Magnum Opus ("Great Work").

It's worth noting that there's some debate as to how literal the "turning lead into gold" goal was, or if alchemy was a more, well, philosophic life approach of self-improvement with turning lead into gold being a metaphor.

Why did they change it? Because the publisher's didn't think kids would understand the reference.

The title of the movie was changed to "Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone" because the book's name was also changed to this. JK Rowling agreed to change the title of the book from "Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone" to "Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone" because the publishers thought that American readers wouldn't pick up a book called "Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone" because they would associate the word Philosopher with some old, boring guy and not with magic. The word Sorcerer brings magis to mind for American children. (citation)

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    ... To the detriment of those who do know what the philosopher’s stone is. I read the American English version and it wasn’t until months later (when I happened to see the British English title) that I had a two-blink “ooh?... OOOOOHHH” moment. (yes, I realize I was not their main age demographic) – Euro Micelli Apr 15 '20 at 3:09
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    @EuroMicelli - Well, that's exactly the point. While that's true, vanishingly few of said people are the 7-9 year old kids that book was targeted at. And if they hadn't picked up and loved the book in huge numbers here in the US, likely most of us old codgers wouldn't have heard of it. – T.E.D. Apr 15 '20 at 9:06
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    @EuroMicelli Similarly, when I read the book I wondered why they titled with Sorcerer when the item was obviously based on the well known Philosopher's Stone. It was considerably later that I came across the original name though. – Michael Richardson Apr 15 '20 at 15:47
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    "Because the publisher's didn't think kids would understand the reference." I think this question here is evidence of somebody from the US not understanding the reference. So, I suppose the publishers did have some point. – VLAZ Apr 15 '20 at 20:05
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    @VLAZ Although, considering that the book goes on to explain what the Philosopher's Stone is, and what it can do, changing the name of a known historical myth to something different does the people who don't know the reference a disservice too. It'd be like the book describing a way to dislodge food when someone's choking, and the Publishers calling it the "Henry Move", because they think "Heimlich Maneuver" is too complicated to pronounce. Instead of a minor moment of education and real-world historical knowledge, you instead set them up to potentially look like fools later in life... – Chronocidal Apr 16 '20 at 16:44

The word philosopher itself means the same thing (or rather, things) on both sides of the pond. The issue was that the American publisher thought that people would not know what "philosopher's stone" (i.e. the whole phrase) meant. They decided that "sorcerer's stone" would be a better term to use, because even if you've never heard of such a thing, you know it has to do with magic. With "philosopher's stone", if you don't know that it's the alchemists' Holy Grail (and the word "philosopher" itself should really be interpreted as "alchemist"), you can't place it in any context, so you might conclude that it's something to do with actual philosophy. And what child wants to read about philosophy?

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    "Philosopher" in this context doesn't mean what the conventional modern meaning means. – Valorum Apr 14 '20 at 19:02
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    @Valorum: the questioner looked at the change in the title and came to the completely incorrect conclusion that word "philosopher" must mean something different in British English. This is emphatically not true: the word "philosopher" carries exactly the same meanings (note plural) in both flavors of English. – Martha Apr 14 '20 at 19:16
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    Either I'm not understanding your point, or you're wrong: the word "philosopher" in "philosopher's stone" means alchemist, which is 100% one of the meanings of the word "philosopher". It's not a meaning that the word "philosopher" can't have in any other context. – Martha Apr 14 '20 at 19:21
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    @NKCampbell: ... which is exactly what I'm saying, and exactly why the title was changed... ? – Martha Apr 14 '20 at 23:11
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    Everyone in this conversation is agreeing with each other. "Philosophers's stone" is a pre-existing term. Philosopher means "alchemist" here. Philosopher means something else in other contexts. This usage is international. Some people omitted some of these statements in their posts but no one is contradicting them. Now let's all smile and think about how smart our conversation mates are. – Jetpack Apr 15 '20 at 19:51

In the context of "Philosopher's Stone", a philosopher is a scientist (in medieval usage, a natural scientist -- as opposed to, say, a mathematician) -- specifically, an alchemist. The Philosopher's Stone is the ultimate goal of alchemy, giving the ability to perform any transmutation, as well providing an Elixir of Life that confers immortality.

More broadly, "philosopher" is made up of two Greek roots: "philos" -- love (non-sexual, brotherly), and "sophias" -- wisdom. A philospher, then is someone who loves wisdom. Historically, the primary occupation of philosphers was to engage in reasoned argument with the intention of discerning truth from supposition -- earning their name by determining what was, in fact, "wisdom" (as opposed to supposition, speculation, and so forth).

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    You might want to stress that the word philosopher used to mean 'natural scientist' rather than 'sits around debating the nature of existence' – Valorum Apr 14 '20 at 19:00
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    To the Greeks, there wasn't much difference -- they were theorists, not experimentalists. – Zeiss Ikon Apr 14 '20 at 19:02
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    Philosophers in ancient times would experiment with optics, chemistry, natural sciences, etc. Even those who were engaged in argument were thrashing out what we'd refer to as the social sciences. – Valorum Apr 14 '20 at 19:03
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    Mathematicians were also philosophers. There's the whole school of platonism... – Armin Apr 15 '20 at 0:12
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    Minor point: sophos = "skill, learning, wisdom", not "to argue". – Tim Pederick Apr 15 '20 at 4:58

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