List of chemical element name etymologies

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This is the list of etymologies for all chemical element names.


Element Language of origin Original word Meaning Symbol origin Description
89 Actinium Ac Greek ἀκτίς (aktis) beam Greek aktinos ἀκτίς, ἀκτῖνος (aktis; aktinos), which means "beam (ray)".
13 Aluminium Al Latin alumen alum (literally: bitter salt)[1] Latin alumen Latin alumen, which means "alum" (literally "bitter salt").
95 Americium Am America toponym: the Americas Named for the Americas, because it was discovered in the United States (by analogy with europium) (the name of the continent America is derived from the name of the Italian navigator Amerigo Vespucci).
51 Antimony Sb Greek? via Medieval Latin and Middle English[2] ἀντί + μόνος
(anti monos);
various Possibly from Greek ἀντί + μόνος (anti monos), approximately meaning "opposed to solitude", as believed never to exist in pure form, or ἀντί + μοναχός (anti monachos) for "monk-killer" (in French folk etymology, anti-moine "monk's bane"), because many early alchemists were monks, and antimony is poisonous. This may also be derived from the Pharaonic (ancient Egyptian), Antos Ammon (expression), which could be translated as "bloom of the god Ammo".
The symbol Sb is from Latin name stibium, which is derived from Greek Στίβι stíbi, a variant of στίμμι stimmi (genitive: στίμμεος or στίμμιδος), probably a loan word from Arabic or Egyptian
G17 F21
sdm meaning "eyepaint".[4] Littré suggests that the first form is derived from *stimmida, a hypothetical alternative accusative of stimmi (the canonical accusative of the noun is the same as the nominative: stimmi). The Arabic word for the substance, as "mark" or "the cosmetic", can appear as تحميض، ثمود، وثمود، وثمود ithmid, athmoud, othmod or uthmod.[5]
18 Argon Ar Greek ἀργόν (argon) inactive descriptive: argon Greek argon means "inactive" (literally "slow").
33 Arsenic As Syriac/Persian via Greek, Latin, Old French, and Middle English ἀρσενικόν (arsenikon) orpiment Greek arsenikon From Greek ἀρσενικόν (arsenikon), which is adapted from the Syriac ܠܐ ܙܐܦܢܝܐ (al) zarniqa[6] and Persian, زرنيخ (zarnik), "yellow orpiment". Ἀρσενικόν (arsenikon) is paretymologically related to the Greek word ἀρσενικός (arsenikos), which means "masculine" or "potent". These words were adapted as the Latin arsenicum and Old French arsenic, which is the source for the English arsenic.[6]
Element Language of origin Original word Meaning Symbol origin Description
85 Astatine At Greek ἄστατος (astatos) unstable Greek astatos ἄστατος (astatos) means "unstable".[7]
56 Barium Ba Greek via Modern Latin βαρύς (barys) heavy Greek barys βαρύς (barys) means "heavy". The oxide was initially called "barote", then "baryta", which was modified to "barium" to describe the metal. Sir Humphry Davy gave the element this name because it was originally found in baryte, which shares the same source.[8]
97 Berkelium Bk Anglo-Saxon via English University of California, Berkeley toponym: Berkeley, California Named for the University of California, Berkeley, where it was discovered. Berkeley, California, was named in honour of George Berkeley. "Berkeley" is derived from Old English beorce léah, which means birch lea.
4 Beryllium Be Sanskrit, Pali, and Prakrit via Greek, Latin, Old French, and Middle English βήρυλλος (beryllos) a blue-green spar (beryllium aluminium cyclosilicate, Be3Al2(SiO3)6). Possibly related to the name of Belur. descriptive (colour): beryl βήρυλλος beryllos, denoting beryl, which contains beryllium.[9] The word is derived (via Latin: beryllus and French: béryl) from the Greek βήρυλλος, bērullos, a blue-green spar, from Prakrit veruliya (वॆरुलिय‌), from Pāli veḷuriya (वेलुरिय); veḷiru (भेलिरु) or, viḷar (भिलर्), "to become pale," in reference to the pale semiprecious gemstone beryl.[10] The word is ultimately derived from the Sanskrit word वैडूर्य vaidurya, which might be related to the name of the city of Belur.[11]
83 Bismuth Bi Modern Latin from German bisemutum white mass descriptive (colour): bisemutum bisemutum is derived from German Wismuth, perhaps from weiße Masse, and means "white mass", due to its appearance.
107 Bohrium Bh Bohr, Niels eponym: Niels Bohr Named in honour of Niels Bohr, who made fundamental contributions to the understanding of atomic structure and quantum mechanics.[12]

Unnilseptium was used as a temporary systematic element name.

5 Boron B Arabic, Medieval Latin, Anglo-Norman, Middle French, and Middle English بورق (buraq) Latin borax from Arabic From the Arabic بورق (buraq), which refers to borax. Possibly derived from the Persian, بوره (burah). The Arabic was adapted as Medieval Latin baurach, Anglo-Norman boreis, and Middle English boras, which became the source of the English "boron".
Element Language of origin Original word Meaning Symbol origin Description
35 Bromine Br Greek via French βρόμος (brómos)[13] dirt or stench (of he-goats)[14] Greek bromos βρόμος (brómos) means "stench (lit. clangor)", due to its characteristic smell.
48 Cadmium Cd Greek/Latin καδμεία (kadmeia) calamine or Cadmean earth Greek kadmia From Latin cadmia, which is derived from Greek καδμεία (kadmeia) and means "calamine", a cadmium-bearing mixture of minerals. Cadmium is named after Cadmus (in Greek: Κάδμος Kadmos), a character in Greek mythology and calamine is derived from Le Calamine, the French name of the Belgian town of Kelmis.
55 Caesium Cs Latin caesius blue-gray[15] or sky blue descriptive (colour): Latin caesius From Latin caesius, which means "sky blue". Its identification was based upon the bright-blue lines in its spectrum, and it was the first element discovered by spectrum analysis.
20 Calcium Ca Greek/Latin χάλιξ/calx χάλιξ means "pebble", and calx means limestone[16] Latin calx From Latin calx, which means "lime". Calcium was known as early as the first century when the Ancient Romans prepared lime as calcium oxide.
98 Californium Cf English California toponym: State and University of California Named for California, the U.S. state of California and for the University of California, Berkeley. (The origin of the state's name is disputed.)
6 Carbon C Latin via French charbone charcoal Latin carbo From the French, charbone, which in turn came from Latin carbō, which means "charcoal" and is related to carbōn, which means "a coal". (The German and Dutch names, "Kohlenstoff" and "koolstof", respectively, both literally mean "coal matter".) These words were derived from the PIE base *ker- meaning heat, fire, or to burn.[17]
58 Cerium Ce Latin Ceres grain, bread astrological; mythological: Ceres Named after the asteroid Ceres, discovered two years earlier. (The asteroid, now classified as a dwarf planet, was named after Ceres, the goddess of fertility in Roman mythology.)[18] Ceres is derived from PIE *ker-es- from base *ker- meaning to grow.[19][20]
17 Chlorine Cl Greek χλωρός (chlorós) pale green[21] descriptive (colour): Greek chloros From Greek χλωρός (chlorós), which means "yellowish green" or "greenish yellow", because of the colour of the gas.
Element Language of origin Original word Meaning Symbol origin Description
24 Chromium Cr Greek via French χρῶμα (chróma) colour descriptive (colour): Greek chroma From Greek χρῶμα (chróma), "colour", because of its multicoloured compounds. This word was adapted as the French chrome, and adding the suffix -ium created the English "chromium".[22]
27 Cobalt Co German Kobold evil spirit German kobold From German Kobold, which means "evil spirit". The metal was named by miners, because it was poisonous and troublesome (polluted and degraded other mined elements, such as nickel). Other sources cite the origin in the silver miners' belief that cobalt had been placed by "Kobolds", who had stolen the silver. Some also think that the name may have been derived from Greek κόβαλος, kobalos, which means "mine" and which may have common roots with kobold, goblin, and cobalt.
112 Copernicium Cn Polish via Latin Copernicus, Nicolaus Polish surname, literally: "copper nickel" eponym: Nicolaus Copernicus Named in honour of Nicolaus Copernicus. Ununbium was used as a temporary systematic element name, and it was referred to as eka-mercury.
29 Copper Cu Greek? via Latin, West Germanic, Old English, and Middle English[23] Κύπριος (Kyprios)? who/which is from Cyprus toponym: Latin Cuprum Possibly derived from Greek Κύπριος (Kyprios) (which comes from Κύπρος (Kypros), the Greek name of Cyprus) via Latin cuprum, West Germanic *kupar, Old English coper/copor, and Middle English coper. The Latin term, during the Roman Empire, was aes cyprium; "aes" was the generic term for copper alloys such as bronze). Cyprium means "Cyprus" or "which is from Cyprus", where so much of it was mined; it was simplified to cuprum and then eventually Anglicized as copper (Old English coper/copor).
96 Curium Cm Curie, Marie and Pierre eponym: Pierre and Marie Curie and the -um ending Named in honour of Marie and Pierre Curie, who discovered radium and researched radioactivity.
110 Darmstadtium Ds German Darmstadt proper name, literally: "intestine city" toponym Named for Darmstadt, where it was discovered (GSI Helmholtz Centre for Heavy Ion Research, located in Wixhausen, a small suburb north of Darmstadt).
It has also been called eka-platinum and temporarily by IUPAC ununnilium (Uun).[24][25]
105 Dubnium Db Russian Дубна (Dubna) toponym Named for Dubna (Joint Institute for Nuclear Research, U.S.S.R.) where it was discovered. Researchers at the University of California, Berkeley proposed hahnium (Ha), in honour of Otto Hahn, for his pioneering work in radioactivity and radiochemistry, but the proposal was rejected.

Unnilpentium was used as a temporary systematic element name.[12]

66 Dysprosium Dy Greek δυσπρόσιτος (dysprositos) hard to get at descriptive Derived from Greek δυσπρόσιτος (dysprositos), which means "hard to get at".
Element Language of origin Original word Meaning Symbol origin Description
99 Einsteinium Es German Einstein, Albert German-Jewish surname, which means "one stone" eponym Named in honour of Albert Einstein, for his work on theoretical physics, which included the photoelectric effect.
68 Erbium Er Swedish Ytterby proper name, literally: "outer village" toponym Named after the village of Ytterby in Sweden, where large concentrations of yttria and erbia are located. Erbia and terbia were confused at this time. After 1860, what had been known as terbia was renamed erbia, and after 1877, what had been known as erbia was renamed terbia.
63 Europium Eu Ancient Greek Εὐρώπη (Europe) broad-faced or well-watered toponym;
Named for Europe, where it was discovered. Europe was named after the fictional Phoenician princess Europa.
100 Fermium Fm Italian Fermi, Enrico Italian surname, from ferm- "fastener" and -i[26] eponym Named in honour of Enrico Fermi, who developed the first nuclear reactor, quantum theory, nuclear and particle physics, and statistical mechanics.

Unnilnilium would have been used as a temporary systematic element name if the IUPAC system had been in place at the time.[12]

114 Flerovium Fl Russian Flerov, Georgy Russian surname eponym Named in honour of Georgy Flyorov, who was at the forefront of Soviet nuclear physics and founder of the Joint Institute for Nuclear Research in Dubna, Russia, where the element was discovered.

Ununquadium was used as a temporary systematic element name.[12]

9 Fluorine F Latin fluor a flowing From fluorspar, one of its compounds (calcium fluoride, CaF2).
87 Francium Fr French France proper name (Land of the Franks) toponym Named for France, where it was discovered (at the Curie Institute (Paris)).
64 Gadolinium Gd Gadolin, Johan eponym Named in honour of Johan Gadolin, who was one of the founders of Nordic chemistry research, discovered yttrium, and pioneered laboratory exercise teaching. (Gadolinite, the mineral, is also named for him.)
31 Gallium Ga Latin Gallia Gaul (Ancient France) toponym From Latin Gallia, which means Gaul (Ancient France), and also gallus, which means "rooster". The element was obtained as free metal by Lecoq de Boisbaudran, who named gallium after France, his native land, and also, punningly, after himself, as Lecoq, which means "the rooster", or in Latin, gallus.

Gallium was called eka-aluminium by Mendeleev who predicted its existence.[25]

32 Germanium Ge Latin Germania Germany toponym From Latin Germania, which means "Germany". Germanium has also been called eka-silicon by Mendeleev.[25]
Element Language of origin Original word Meaning Symbol origin Description
79 Gold Au Anglo-Saxon via Middle English gold descriptive (colour): Latin aurum From the Anglo-Saxon, "gold", from PIE *ghel- meaning "yellow/ bright".
Au is from Latin aurum, which means "shining dawn".[27]
72 Hafnium Hf Latin Hafnia Copenhagen toponym From Latin Hafnia, which means "Copenhagen" of Denmark.
108 Hassium Hs Latin Hassia Hesse toponym Derived from Latin Hassia, which means Hesse, the German state where it was discovered (at the Institute for Heavy Ion Research, Darmstadt).[12] It has also been called eka-osmium[25] and temporarily by IUPAC unniloctium (Uno).[12]
2 Helium He Greek ἥλιος (hélios) sun mythological Named after the Greek ἥλιος (helios), which means "the sun" or the mythological sun-god.[18] It was first identified by its characteristic emission lines in the Sun's spectrum.
67 Holmium Ho Latin Holmia Stockholm toponym Derived from Latin Holmia, which means Stockholm.
1 Hydrogen H Greek via Latin and French ὕδωρ (root: ὑδρ-) + -γενής (-genes) water + begetter descriptive From French hydrogène[28] and Latin hydro- and -genes, derived from the Greek ὕδωρ γείνομαι (hydor geinomai), meaning "Ι beget water".
49 Indium In Greek via Latin and English indigo descriptive (colour) Named after indigo, because of an indigo-coloured spectrum line. The English word indigo is from Spanish indico and Dutch indigo (from Portuguese endego), from Latin indicum "indigo," from Greek ἰνδικόν, indikon, "blue dye from India".
53 Iodine I Greek via French ἰώδης (iodes) violet descriptive (colour) Named after the Greek ἰώδης (iodes), which means "violet", because of the colour of the gaseous phase. This word was adapted as the French iode, which is the source of the English "iodine".[29]
77 Iridium Ir Greek via Latin ἴρις (genitive: ἴριδος) of rainbows descriptive (colour) Named after the Latin noun iris, which means "rainbow, iris plant, iris of the eye", because many of its salts are strongly coloured; Iris was originally the name of the goddess of rainbows and a messenger in Greek mythology.[18]
26 Iron Fe Anglo-Saxon via Middle English īsern
(earlier: īren/īsen)
holy metal or strong metal[30] descriptive: Anglo-Saxon From the Anglo-Saxon īsern which is derived from Proto-Germanic isarnan meaning "holy metal" or "strong metal".
The symbol Fe is from Latin ferrum, meaning "iron".
36 Krypton Kr Greek κρυπτός (kryptos) hidden descriptive From Greek κρυπτός (kryptos), which means "hidden one", because of its colourless, odorless, tasteless, gaseous properties, as well as its rarity in nature (like other noble gases).
57 Lanthanum La Greek λανθάνειν (lanthanein) to lie hidden From Greek lanthanein, "to lie (hidden)".
Element Language of origin Original word Meaning Symbol origin Description
103 Lawrencium Lr Lawrence, Ernest O. eponym Named in honour of Ernest O. Lawrence, who was involved in the development of the cyclotron.

The symbol has been Lr since 1963; formerly Lw was used. Unniltrium would have been used as a temporary systematic element name if the IUPAC system had been in place at the time.[12]

82 Lead Pb Anglo-Saxon lead The symbol Pb is from the Latin name plumbum, hence the English "plumbing".[18][31]
3 Lithium Li Greek λίθος (lithos) stone From Greek λίθος (lithos) "stone", because it was discovered from a mineral while other common alkali metals (sodium and potassium) were discovered from plant tissue.
116 Livermorium Lv English American surname toponym Named in honour of Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, which collaborated in the discovery and is in Livermore, California, in turn named after the rancher Robert Livermore.

Ununhexium was used as a temporary systematic element name.[12]

71 Lutetium Lu Latin Lutetia Paris toponym Named after the Latin Lutetia (Gaulish for "place of mud"), the city of Paris.[12]
12 Magnesium Mg Greek Μαγνησία (Magnesia) toponym From the Ancient Greek Μαγνησία (Magnesia) (district in Thessaly), where discovered.
25 Manganese Mn Greek via Latin, Italian, and French Μαγνησία
Medieval Latin: magnesia)
Magnesia descriptive From Latin Magnesia, ultimately from Greek; Magnesia evolved into "manganese" in Italian and into "manganèse" in French.
109 Meitnerium Mt Meitner, Lise eponym Named in honour of Lise Meitner, who shared discovery of nuclear fission.[12] It has also been called eka-iridium[25] and temporarily by IUPAC unnilennium (Une).[12]
101 Mendelevium Md Mendeleyev, Dmitri eponym Named in honour of Dmitri Mendeleyev, who invented periodic table.[32] It has also been called eka-thulium[25] and would have been temporarily called, by IUPAC, unnilunium (Unu) if the IUPAC system had been in place at the time.[12]
80 Mercury Hg Latin Mercurius Mercury mythological Named after Mercury, the god of speed and messenger of the Gods, as was the planet Mercury named after the god.
The symbol Hg is from the Greek words ὕδωρ and ἀργυρός (hydor and argyros), which became the Latin hydrargyrum; both mean "water-silver", because it is a liquid like water (at room temperature), and has a silvery metallic sheen.[18][33]
Element Language of origin Original word Meaning Symbol origin Description
42 Molybdenum Mo Greek μόλυβδος (molybdos) lead-like descriptive From Greek μόλυβδος (molybdos), "lead".
115 Moscovium Mc Latin Moscovia Moscow toponym Named after Moscow Oblast, where the element was discovered. It has also been called eka-bismuth[25] and temporarily by IUPAC ununpentium (Uut).[12]
60 Neodymium Nd Greek νέος δίδυμος (neos didymos) new twin descriptive Derived from Greek νέος διδύμος (neos didymos), which means "new twin", because didymium separated into praseodymium and neodymium. The metals have different-coloured salts, which helps distinguish them.[34]
10 Neon Ne Greek νέος (neos) new From Greek "νέος" (neos), which means "new".
93 Neptunium Np Latin Neptunus Neptune mythological Named for Neptune, the planet. (The planet was named after the god Neptune, the god of oceans in Roman mythology.)[18]
28 Nickel Ni Swedish via German[35] Kopparnickel/
copper-coloured ore descriptive From the Swedish kopparnickel, meaning "copper-coloured ore"; this referred to the ore niccolite from which it was obtained.[36]
113 Nihonium Nh Japanese 日本 (Nihon) Japan toponym Named after Japan, where the element was discovered. It has also been called eka-thallium[25] and temporarily by IUPAC ununtrium (Uut).[12]
41 Niobium Nb Greek Νιόβη (Niobe) snowy mythological Named after Niobe, daughter of Tantalus in Classical mythology.[12][18]
The alternate name columbium comes from Columbia, personification of America.
7 Nitrogen N Greek via Latin and French νίτρον (Latin: nitrum) -γενής (-genes) native-soda begetter descriptive From French "nitrogène",[37] derived from Greek νίτρον γείνομαι (nitron geinomai), meaning "I form/beget native-soda (niter)".[38]
Also used was azoth, from Andalusian Arabic al-zuq, from the Classical Arabic name of the element.
102 Nobelium No Nobel, Alfred eponym Named in honour of Alfred Nobel, who invented dynamite and instituted the Nobel Prizes foundation.

Unnilbium would have been used as a temporary systematic element name if the IUPAC system had been in place at the time.[12]

118 Oganesson Og Russian Оганесян (Oganessian) Yuri Oganessian eponym Named after Yuri Oganessian, a great contributor to the field of synthesizing superheavy elements. It has also been called eka-radon[25] and temporarily by IUPAC ununoctium (Uuo).[12]
76 Osmium Os Greek via Modern Latin ὀσμή (osme) a smell descriptive From Greek ὀσμή (osme), meaning "a smell"; the tetroxide is foul-smelling.
8 Oxygen O Greek via French ὀξύ γείνομαι (oxy geinomai)/oxygène to bring forth acid From Greek ὀξύ γείνομαι (oxy geinomai), which means "Ι bring forth acid", as it was believed to be an essential component of acids. This phrase was corrupted into the French oxygène, which became the source of the English "oxygen".[39]
46 Palladium Pd Greek via Latin Παλλάς (genitive: Παλλάδος) (Pallas) little maiden[40] astrological/ mythological Named after Pallas, the asteroid discovered two years earlier. (The asteroid was named after Pallas Athena, goddess of wisdom and victory.)[18] The word Palladium is derived from Greek Παλλάδιον and is the neuter version of Παλλάδιος, meaning "of Pallas".[41]
Element Language of origin Original word Meaning Symbol origin Description
15 Phosphorus P Greek via Latin[42] φῶς + -φόρος (phos + -phoros) light-bearer descriptive From Greek φῶς + -φόρος (phos + phoros), which means "light bearer", because white phosphorus emits a faint glow upon exposure to oxygen.
Phosphorus was the ancient name for Venus, or Hesperus, the (Morning Star).[18]
78 Platinum Pt Spanish via Modern Latin platina (del Pinto) little silver (of the Pinto River)[43] descriptive From the Spanish, platina, which means "little silver", because it was first encountered in a silver mine. Platina can also mean "stage (of a microscope)", and the modern Spanish is platino. Platina is a diminutive of plata (silver); it is a loan word from French plate or Provençal plata (sheet of metal) and is the origin of the English "plate".[44]
94 Plutonium Pu Greek via Latin Πλούτων (Ploutōn) via Pluto god of wealth[45] astrological;
Named after Pluto, the dwarf planet, because it was discovered directly after Neptunium and is higher than Uranium in the periodic table, so by analogy with the ordering of the planets. (The planet Pluto was named after Pluto, a Greek god of the dead)[18] Πλούτων (Ploutōn) is related to the Greek word πλοῦτος (ploutos) meaning "wealth".
84 Polonium Po Latin Polonia Poland toponym Named after Poland, homeland of discoverer Marie Curie. Was also called radium F.
19 Potassium K Modern Latin via Dutch and English[46] potassa; potasch via potash[47] pot-ash From the English "potash", which means "pot-ash" (potassium compound prepared from an alkali extracted in a pot from the ash of burnt wood or tree leaves).
Potash is a literal translation of the German potaschen, which means "pot ashes".[46] The symbol K is from the Latin name kalium, from Arabic القلي (al qalīy), which means "calcined ashes".
59 Praseodymium Pr Greek πράσιος δίδυμος (prasios didymos) green twin descriptive From Greek πράσιος δίδυμος (prasios didymos), meaning "green twin", because didymium separated into praseodymium and neodymium, with salts of different colours; praseodymium oxide is green.
61 Promethium Pm Greek Προμηθεύς (Prometheus) forethought[48] mythological Named after Prometheus, who stole the fire of heaven and gave it to mankind (in Classical mythology).[18]
91 Protactinium Pa Greek πρῶτος + ἀκτίς first beam element descriptive? Derived from former name protoactinium, from the Greek prefix proto "first" + Neo-Latin actinium from Greek ἀκτίς (gen.: ἀκτῖνος) "ray" + Latin -ium.[49]
88 Radium Ra Latin via French radius ray descriptive From Latin radius meaning "ray", because of its radioactivity.
86 Radon Rn Latin via German and English[50] Radium Contraction of radium emanation, since the element appears in the radioactive decay of radium.
An alternative, rejected name was niton (Nt), from Latin nitens "shining", because of the radioluminescence of radon.
75 Rhenium Re Latin Rhenus Rhine toponym From Latin Rhenus, the river Rhine.
45 Rhodium Rh Greek ῥόδον (rhodon) rose descriptive (colour) From Greek ῥόδον (rhodon), which means "rose". From rose-red compounds.
111 Roentgenium Rg Röntgen,
Wilhelm Conrad
eponym Named in honour of Wilhelm Conrad Röntgen, who produced and detected X-rays. It has also been called eka-gold[25] and temporarily by IUPAC unununium (Uuu).[12]
Element Language of origin Original word Meaning Symbol origin Description
37 Rubidium Rb Latin rubidus deepest red descriptive (colour) From Latin rubidus, which means "deepest red", because of the colour of a spectral line.
44 Ruthenium Ru Latin Ruthenia Ruthenia, Kievan Rus' [51] toponym From Latin Ruthenia, geographical exonym for Kievan Rus'.
104 Rutherfordium Rf Rutherford, Ernest eponym Named in honour of Baron Ernest Rutherford, who pioneered the Bohr model of the atom. Rutherfordium has also been called kurchatovium (Ku), named in honour of Igor Vasilevich Kurchatov, who helped develop understanding of the uranium chain reaction and the nuclear reactor.

Unnilquadium was used as a temporary systematic element name.[12]

62 Samarium Sm Samarsky-Bykhovets, Vasili eponym Named after samarskite, the mineral. (Samarskite was named after Colonel Vasili Samarsky-Bykhovets, a Russian mine official.)
21 Scandium Sc Latin Scandia Scandinavia toponym Named from Latin Scandia, which means Scandinavia; formerly eka-boron.[25]
106 Seaborgium Sg Swedish via English Seaborg, Glenn Teodor Swedish surname, literally: "Lake Mountain" eponym Named in honour of Glenn T. Seaborg, who discovered the chemistry of the transuranium elements, shared in the discovery and isolation of ten elements, and developed and proposed the actinide series. Other names: eka-tungsten[25] and temporarily by IUPAC unnilhexium (Unh).[12]
34 Selenium Se Greek σελήνη (selene) moon astrological/ mythological From Greek σελήνη (selene), which means "Moon", and also moon-goddess Selene.[18]
14 Silicon Si Latin silex, -icis flint descriptive From Latin "silex" or "silicis", which means "flint", a kind of stone (chiefly silicon dioxide).
47 Silver Ag Akkadian via Anglo-Saxon and Middle English 𒊭𒁺𒁍/𒊭𒅈𒇥; siolfor/seolfor to refine, smelt Latin argentum From the Anglo-Saxon, seolfor which was derived from Proto-Germanic *silubra-; compare Old High German silabar; and has cognates in Balto-Slavic languages: Old Church Slavonic: sĭrebro, Lithuanian: sidabras, Old Prussian sirablan. Possibly borrowed from Akkadian 𒊭𒅈𒇥 sarpu "refined silver" and related to 𒊭𒁺𒁍 sarapu "to refine, smelt".[52] Alternatively, possibly from one of the Pre-Indo-European languages, compare Basque: zilar.
The symbol Ag is from the Latin name argentum, which is derived from PIE *arg-ent-.
11 Sodium Na English soda From the English "soda", used in names for sodium compounds such as caustic soda, soda ash, and baking soda. Probably from Italian sida (or directly from Medieval Latin soda) "a kind of saltwort," from which soda was obtained, of uncertain origin.[53]

The symbol Na is from the Modern Latin noun natrium, derived from Greek νίτρον (nítron), "natural soda, a kind of salt" + Latin -ium.[54] The original source is either the Arabic word نطرون natrun or the Egyptian word
R8 X1
Element Language of origin Original word Meaning Symbol origin Description
38 Strontium Sr Scottish Gaelic via English Sròn an t-Sìthein; Strontian proper name (literally: "nose [i.e., 'point'] of the fairy hill)" toponym Named after strontianite, the mineral. (Strontianite was named after the town of Strontian, the source of the mineral in Scotland.)
16 Sulfur S Latin

Old Latin sulpur
(later sulphur, sulfur)

PIE *swépl̥
(genitive *sulplós),
nominal derivative of *swelp.[56]
> PIE *swelp 'to burn' Latin sulfur The word came into Middle English from Anglo-Norman sulfre, itself derived through Old French soulfre from Late Latin sulfur.[57]
73 Tantalum Ta Greek Τάνταλος (Tantalus) Tantalus; possibly "the bearer" or "the sufferer"[58] mythological Named after the Greek Τάνταλος ("Tantalus"), who was punished after death by being condemned to stand knee-deep in water. If he bent to drink the water, it drained below the level he could reach (in Greek mythology). This was considered similar to tantalum's general non-reactivity (that is, "unreachability") because of its inertness (it sits among reagents and is unaffected by them).[18]
43 Technetium Tc Greek τεχνητός (technetos) artificial descriptive From Greek τεχνητός (technetos), which means "artificial", because it was the first artificially produced element. Technetium has also been called eka-manganese.[25]
52 Tellurium Te Latin Tellus Earth From Latin tellus ("Earth").
117 Tennessine Ts Cherokee via English Tennessee Tennessee toponym Named after Tennessee (itself named after the Cherokee village of ᏔᎾᏏ /tanasi/), where important work for one of the steps to synthesise the element was done. It has also been called eka-astatine[25] and temporarily by IUPAC ununseptium (Uut).[12]
65 Terbium Tb Swedish Ytterby Proper name (literally: outer village) toponym Named after Ytterby, the village in Sweden where the element was first discovered.
81 Thallium Tl Greek θαλλός (thallos) green twig descriptive From Greek θαλλός (thallos), which means "a green shoot (twig)", because of its bright-green spectral emission lines.
90 Thorium Th Old Norse Þōrr (modern English Thor) thunder mythological Named after Thor, a god associated with thunder in Norse mythology.[18]
The former name ionium (Io) was given early in the study of radioactive elements to the 230Th isotope.
Element Language of origin Original word Meaning Symbol origin Description
69 Thulium Tm Greek Θούλη, Θύλη[59] a mythical country mythological Named after Thule, an ancient Roman and Greek name (Θούλη, Θύλη) for a mythical country in the far north, perhaps Scandinavia. By the same token, thulia, its oxide.
50 Tin Sn Anglo-Saxon via Middle English tin Borrowed from a Proto-Indo-European language, and has cognates in several Germanic and Celtic languages.[60]
The symbol Sn is from its Latin name stannum.
22 Titanium Ti Greek Τιτάν
(gen.: Τιτάνος)
Earth mythological From Greek τιτάν (titan), which means "Earth", and also "Titans", the first sons of Gaia in Greek mythology.[18]
74 Tungsten W Swedish and Danish tung sten heavy stone descriptive From the Swedish and Danish "tung sten", which means "heavy stone". The symbol W is from the scientific name wolfram. The element's ore, wolframite, was named in honour of Peter Woulfe, who discovered its existence. The names wolfram or volfram are still used in Swedish and several other languages.
92 Uranium U Greek via Latin Οὐρανός (Ouranos); Uranus sky astrological;
Named after the planet Uranus, which had been discovered eight years earlier in 1781. The planet was named after the god Uranus, the god of sky and heaven in Greek mythology.[18]
23 Vanadium V Old Norse Vanadís "Dís of the Vanir" mythological From Vanadís, one of the names of the Vanr goddess Freyja in Norse mythology, because of multicoloured chemical compounds deemed beautiful.[18]
54 Xenon Xe Greek ξένος (xenos) foreign From the Greek adjective ξένος (xenos), which means "foreign, a stranger".
70 Ytterbium Yb Swedish Ytterby proper name, literally: "outer village" toponym Named after ytterbia, the (oxide) compound of ytterbium. (The compound ytterbia was named after Ytterby, the Swedish village (near Vaxholm) where the mineral gadolinite was also found.)[12]
39 Yttrium Y Swedish Ytterby proper name, literally: "outer village" toponym Named after yttria, the (oxide) compound of yttrium. (The compound yttria was named after Ytterby, the village where the mineral gadolinite was also found.)[12]
30 Zinc Zn German Zink Cornet From German Zink which is related to Zinken "prong, point", probably alluding to its spiky crystals. May be derived from Old Persian.
40 Zirconium Zr Syriac/Persian via Arabic and German ܙܐܪܓܥܢܥ zargono,[61] زرگون (zargûn) gold-like From Arabic زركون (zarkûn). Derived from the Persian, زرگون (zargûn), which means "gold-like". Zirkon is the German variant of these and is the origin of the English "zircon".[62]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Aluminum in Online Etymological Dictionary, accessed March 9, 2010". Retrieved 2011-01-02. 
  2. ^ "Antimony | Define Antimony at". Retrieved 2011-01-02. 
  3. ^ "Online Etymology Dictionary". Retrieved 2011-01-02. 
  4. ^ Vygus, Mark (April 2012). Vygus dictionary (PDF). p. 1409. 
  5. ^ Antimony,
    • LSJ, s.v., vocalisation, spelling, and declension vary; Endlich; Celsus, 6.6.6 ff; Pliny Natural History 33.33; Lewis and Short: Latin Dictionary. OED, s. antimony.
    • stimmi is used by the Attic tragic poets of the 5th century BC. Later Greeks also used στίβι (stibi), which is written in Latin by Celsus and Pliny in the first century AD. Pliny also names stimi [sic], larbaris, alabaster (Greek: ἀλάβαστρον), "very common platyophthalmos (πλατυόφθαλμος)", "wide-eye" in Greek (the description refers to the effects of the cosmetic). In Egyptian hieroglyphics, mśdmt; the vowels are uncertain, but in Coptic and according to an Arabic tradition, it is pronounced mesdemet (Albright; Sarton, quotes Meyerhof, the translator). In Arabic, the word for powdered stibnite is kuhl.[1]
  6. ^ a b "Online Etymology Dictionary". Retrieved 2011-01-02. 
  7. ^ Astatine, An earlier proposed name for astatine was alabamine (Ab)
  8. ^ "Online Etymology Dictionary". Retrieved 2011-01-02. 
  9. ^ At one time, beryllium was called glucinium, which is from Greek γλυκύς (glykys), which means "sweet", due to the sweet taste of its salts.
  10. ^ "The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language: beryl". Houghton Mifflin Company. 2000. Retrieved 2008-09-18. 
  11. ^ "Beryl in Online Etymological Dictionary, accessed March 9, 2010". Retrieved 2011-01-02. 
  12. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x see Naming controversy below
  13. ^ "Online Etymology Dictionary". Retrieved 2011-01-02. 
  14. ^ Gemoll W, Vretska K (1997). Griechisch-Deutsches Schul- und Handwörterbuch (Greek–German dictionary), 9th ed. öbvhpt. ISBN 3-209-00108-1. 
  15. ^ "Online Etymology Dictionary". Retrieved 2011-01-02. 
  16. ^ "Online Etymology Dictionary". Retrieved 2011-01-02. 
  17. ^ "Online Etymology Dictionary". Retrieved 2011-01-02. 
  18. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q Some elements (particularly ancient elements) were associated with Greek (or Roman or other) gods or people, in Greek mythology (or other mythology), and with planets (or other objects in the solar system), such as Mercury (mythology)Mercury (planet)Mercury (element), etc.
    Also, astrological symbols for the planets were often used as symbols for the ancient elements.
  19. ^ Mike Campbell. "Meaning, Origin and History of the Name Ceres". Behind the Name. Retrieved 2011-01-02. 
  20. ^ "Online Etymology Dictionary". Retrieved 2011-01-02. 
  21. ^ "Online Etymology Dictionary". Retrieved 2011-01-02. 
  22. ^ "Online Etymology Dictionary". Retrieved 2011-01-02. 
  23. ^ "Online Etymology Dictionary". Retrieved 2011-01-02. 
  24. ^ Darmstadtium, Some humorous scientists suggested the name policium, because 110 is the emergency telephone number for the German police.
  25. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n Previous to the discovery of some unknown elements, Prof. Dmitri Mendeleev predicted and described most of their properties; with these, he was able to accurately place them in the gaps in his periodic table. The properties of four predicted elements, eka-boron (Eb), eka-aluminium (El), eka-manganese (Em), and eka-silicon (Es), proved to be good predictors of scandium, gallium, technetium and germanium, respectively. The prefix eka-, from the Sanskrit, means "one" (one place down from a known element in the table), and is sometimes used in discussions about undiscovered elements. For example, untriennium was referred to as eka-actinium. see also: Mendeleev's predicted elements
  26. ^ Derived from a Latin masculine genitive.
  27. ^ Gold in Sanskrit is ज्वल jval; in Greek, χρυσός (khrusos); in Chinese, 金 (jīn).
  28. ^ "Online Etymology Dictionary". Retrieved 2011-01-02. 
  29. ^ "Online Etymology Dictionary". Retrieved 2011-01-02. 
  30. ^ "Online Etymology Dictionary". Retrieved 2011-01-02. 
  31. ^ Lead, Lead was mentioned in the Book of Exodus. Alchemists believed that lead was the oldest metal and associated the element with Saturn.
  32. ^ Mendelevium, "Mendeleyev" commonly spelt as Mendeleev, Mendeléef, or Mendelejeff, and first name sometimes spelt as Dmitry or Dmitriy
  33. ^ Mercury – The Indian alchemy called Rassayana, which means "the way of mercury".
  34. ^ Neodymium is frequently misspelled as neodynium
  35. ^ "Online Etymology Dictionary". Retrieved 2011-01-02. 
  36. ^ Nickel in Online Etymological Dictionary. Retrieved December 12, 2008.
  37. ^ "Online Etymology Dictionary". Retrieved 2011-01-02. 
  38. ^ Nitrogen, The pure gas is inert enough that Antoine Lavoisier referred to it as "azote", meaning "without life", since animals placed in it died of asphyxiation. This term became the French for nitrogen and later spread to many other languages.
  39. ^ "Online Etymology Dictionary". Retrieved 2011-01-02. 
  40. ^ "Online Etymology Dictionary". Retrieved 2011-01-02. 
  41. ^ "Online Etymology Dictionary". Retrieved 2011-01-02. 
  42. ^ "Online Etymology Dictionary". Retrieved 2011-01-02. 
  43. ^ Woods, Ian (2004). The Elements: Platinum. The Elements. Benchmark Books. ISBN 978-0-7614-1550-3. 
  44. ^ "Online Etymology Dictionary". Retrieved 2011-01-02. 
  45. ^ "Online Etymology Dictionary". Retrieved 2011-01-02. 
  46. ^ a b "Online Etymology Dictionary". Retrieved 2011-01-02. 
  47. ^ Harper, Douglas. "Potassium". Online Etymology Dictionary. 
  48. ^ The ancient Greek derivation of Prometheus from the Greek πρό pro ("before") + μανθάνω manthano ("learn"), thus "forethought", which engendered a contrasting brother Epimetheus ("afterthought"), was a folk etymology; it is succinctly expressed in Servius' commentary on Virgil, Eclogue 6.42: "Prometheus vir prudentissimus fuit, unde etiam Prometheus dictus est ἀπὸ τής πρόμηθείας, id est a providentia." Modern scientific linguistics suggests that the name derived from the Proto-Indo-European root that also produces the Vedic pra math, "to steal," hence pramathyu-s, "thief", cognate with "Prometheus", the thief of fire. The Vedic myth of fire's theft by Mātariśvan is an analog to the Greek account. Pramantha was the tool used to create fire. See: Fortson, Benjamin W. (2004). Indo-European Language and Culture: An Introduction. Blackwell Publishing, p. 27.; Williamson (2004), The Longing for Myth in Germany, 214–15; Dougherty, Carol (2006). Prometheus. p. 4.
  49. ^ Protactinium; In 1913, Kasimir Fajans and Otto H. Göhring identified and named element 91 brevium, from Latin brevis, which means "brief, short"; protactinium has a short half-life. The name was changed to "protoactinium" in 1918 and shortened to protactinium in 1949.
  50. ^ "Online Etymology Dictionary". Retrieved 2011-01-02. 
  51. ^ Magocsi, Paul Robert (1996-01-01). A History of Ukraine. University of Toronto Press. ISBN 9780802078209. 
  52. ^ "Online Etymology Dictionary". Retrieved 2011-01-02. 
  53. ^ "soda". soda. Online Etymology Dictionary. 
  54. ^ In medieval Europe, sodanum is the Latin name of "a compound of sodium".
  55. ^ Vygus, Mark (April 2012). Vygus dictionary (PDF). p. 1546. 
  56. ^ Mallory & Adams (2006) The Oxford introduction to Proto-Indo-European and the Proto-Indo-European world, Oxford University Press
  57. ^ Harper, Douglas. "Sulfur". Online Etymology Dictionary. 
  58. ^ "Online Etymology Dictionary". Retrieved 2011-01-02. 
  59. ^ "Thule in Wordnik, accessed March 9, 2010". Retrieved 2011-01-02. 
  60. ^ Tin – The American Heritage Dictionary
  61. ^ Pearse, Roger (2002-09-16). "Syriac Literature". Retrieved 2008-02-11. 
  62. ^ "Online Etymology Dictionary". Retrieved 2011-01-02. 

Further reading[edit]

  • Eric Scerri, The Periodic System, Its Story and Its Significance, Oxford University Press, New York, 2007.