Systematic element name

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search

A systematic element name is the temporary name assigned to a newly synthesized or not yet synthesized chemical element. A systematic symbol is also derived from this name. In chemistry, a transuranic element receives a permanent name and symbol only after its synthesis has been confirmed. In some cases, such as the Transfermium Wars, controversies over the formal name and symbol have been protracted and highly political. In order to discuss such elements without ambiguity, the International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry (IUPAC) uses a set of rules to assign a temporary systematic name and symbol to each such element. This approach to naming originated in the successful development of regular rules for the naming of organic compounds.

IUPAC rules[edit]

Digit Root Etymology Symbol Pronunciation
0 nil Latin nihil ("nothing") n /nɪl/
1 un Latin unus ("one") u /n/
2 b(i) Latin bis ("twice") b /b/
3 tr(i) Latin tres ("three")
Greek tria ("three")
t /tr/
4 quad Latin quattuor ("four") q /kwɒd/
5 pent Greek pente ("five") p /pɛnt/
6 hex Greek hex ("six") h /hɛks/
7 sept Latin septem ("seven") s /sɛpt/
8 oct Latin octo ("eight")
Greek okto ("eight")
o /ɒkt/
9 en(n) Greek ennea ("nine") e /ɛn/
Suffix -ium Latin -um (neuter singular) none /-iəm/

The temporary names derive systematically from the element's atomic number, and apply only to 101 ≤ Z ≤ 999.[1] Each digit is translated into a "numerical root" according to the table. The roots are concatenated, and the name is completed by the suffix -ium. Some of the roots are Latin and others are Greek, to avoid two digits starting with the same letter (for example, the Greek-derived pent is used instead of the Latin-derived quint to avoid confusion with quad for 4). There are two elision rules designed to prevent odd-looking names.

  • If bi or tri is followed by the ending ‑ium (i.e. the last digit is 2 or 3), the result is ‑bium or ‑trium, not *‑biium or *‑triium.
  • If enn is followed by nil (i.e. the sequence -90- occurs), the result is ‑ennil-, not *‑ennnil-.

The suffix ‑ium overrides traditional chemical-suffix rules; thus, elements 117 and 118 were ununseptium and ununoctium, not *ununseptine and *ununocton.[2] This does not apply to the trivial names these elements receive once confirmed; thus, elements 117 and 118 are now tennessine and oganesson, respectively. For these trivial names, all elements receive the suffix ‑ium except those in group 17, which receive ‑ine (like the halogens), and those in group 18, which receive ‑on (like the noble gases).

The systematic symbol is formed by taking the first letter of each root, converting the first to a capital. This results in three-letter symbols instead of the one- or two-letter symbols used for named elements.

As of 2019, all 118 discovered elements have received individual permanent names and symbols,[3] so currently, systematic names and symbols are used only for the undiscovered elements beyond element 118, oganesson. When such an element is discovered, it will keep its systematic name and symbol until its discovery meets the criteria of and is accepted by the IUPAC/IUPAP Joint Working Party, upon which the discoverers are invited to propose a permanent name and symbol. Once this name and symbol is proposed, there is still a comment period before they become official and replace the systematic name and symbol.


  1. ^
  2. ^ Koppenol, W. (2016). "How to name new chemical elements" (PDF). Pure and Applied Chemistry. DeGruyter. doi:10.1515/pac-2015-0802.
  3. ^ "IUPAC Announces the Names of the Elements 113, 115, 117, and 118". IUPAC. 2016-11-30. Retrieved 2016-11-30.

External links[edit]