List of chemical element name etymologies

List of chemical element name etymologies

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

Name Symbol Language of origin Word of origin Meaning Symbol origin

Actinium Ac Greek ἀκτίς (aktis) beam Greek aktinos
ἀκτίς, ἀκτῖνος (aktis; aktinos), meaning "beam (ray)".

Aluminium Al Latin alumen alum (literally: bitter salt)[1] alumen
Latin alumen means "alum" (literally "bitter salt").

Americium Am America the Americas
Named for the Americas, because 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).

Antimony Sb Greek? via Medieval Latin and Middle English[2] ἀντί + μόνος (anti monos); antimonium/antimonie[3] 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. May also be derived from the Pharaonic (Ancient Egypt), 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. Littré suggests the first form derives 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.[4] "
Argon Ar Greek ἀργόν (argon) inactive argon
Greek argon means "inactive" (literally "lazy").

Arsenic As Syriac/Persian via Greek, Latin, Old French, and Middle English ἀρσενικόν (arsenikon) orpiment Greek arsenikon
From Greek ἀρσενικόν (arsenikon) adapted from the Syriac ܠܐ ܙܐܦܢܝܐ (al) zarniqa [5] and Persian, "زرنيخ" (zarnik), "yellow orpiment". Ἀρσενικόν (arsenikon) is paretymologically related to the Greek word ἀρσενικός (arsenikos) meaning "masculine" or "potent." These words were adapted into Latin: arsenicum and Old French arsenic which is the source for the English word: arsenic. [5]

Astatine At Greek ἄστατος (astatos) unstable Greek astatos
"ἄστατος" (astatos) means "unstable".[6]

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 Humphrey Davy gave the element this name because it was originally found in the mineral baryte which is of the same source.[7]

Berkelium Bk Anglo-Saxon via English University of California, Berkeley Berkeley, California
Named for the University of California, Berkeley, where discovered. The city of Berkeley, California was named in honor of George Berkeley. The name "Berkeley" is derived from Old English beorce léah meaning birch lea. [8]

Beryllium Be Sanskrit, Pali, and Prakrit via Greek, Latin, Old French, and Middle English βήρυλλος (beryllos) a blue-green spar, but possibly related to the name of Belur 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]

Bismuth Bi Modern Latin from German bisemutum white mass bisemutum
"bisemutum", derived from German "Wismuth", perhaps from "weiße Masse", means "white mass", due to its appearance.

Bohrium Bh Bohr, Niels Niels Bohr
Named in honor of Niels Bohr, who made fundamental understanding of atomic structure and quantum mechanics.[12]

Boron B Persian via Arabic, Medieval Latin, Anglo-Norman, Middle French, and Middle English بورق (buraq) borax
"بورق" (buraq) derived from the Persian, "بوره" (burah) referring to borax. These terms were adapted into Medieval Latin baurach, Anglo-Norman boreis, and Middle English boras, which became the source of the English word boron.

Bromine Br Greek via French βρόμος (brómos)/"brome"[13] dirt or stench (of he-goats)[14] Greek bromos
"βρόμος" (brómos), means "stench (lit. clangor)", due to its characteristic smell.

Cadmium Cd Greek/Latin καδμεία (cadmia) calamine or Cadmean earth Greek kadmia
From Latin cadmia, derived from Greek καδμεία (kadmeia), 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.

Caesium Cs Latin caesius blue-gray[15] or sky blue Latin caesius
From Latin "caesius", 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.

Calcium Ca Greek/Latin χάλιξ/calx χάλιξ means "pebble"; calx means limestone[16] Latin calx
From Latin "calx", means "lime". Calcium was known as early as the first century when the Ancient Romans prepared lime as calcium oxide.

Californium Cf English California 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.)

Carbon C Latin via French charbone charcoal carbo
From the French, "charbone", which in turn came from Latin "carbō", means "charcoal" and is related to "carbōn-" meaning "a coal." (In the German and the Dutch, Kohlenstoff and Koolstof, respectively, both literally mean "coal-stuff") These words were derived from the PIE base *ker- meaning heat, fire, or to burn. [17]

Cerium Ce Latin Ceres grain, bread 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 mythology) [18] Ceres is derived from PIE *ker-es- from base *ker- meaning to grow.[19][20]

Chlorine Cl Greek χλωρός (chlorós) pale green[21] Greek chloros
From Greek "χλωρός" (chlorós), means "yellowish green" or "greenish yellow", because of the color of the gas.

Chromium Cr Greek via French χρῶμα (chróma) color Greek chroma
From Greek, χρῶμα (chróma), "color", because of many colors of compounds. This word was adapted into French chrome and adding the suffix -ium to the end of it created the English word Chromium.[22]

Cobalt Co German Kobold evil spirit German kobold
From German Kobold, means "evil spirit", the metal being so called by miners, because it was poisonous and troublesome (polluted and degraded the other mined elements, like Nickel). Other sources cite the origin as stemming from silver miners' belief that cobalt had been placed by "Kobolds" who had stolen the silver. Some also think the name may be derive from Greek κόβαλος kobalos, means "mine", and which may have common roots with kobold, goblin, and cobalt.

Copernicium Cn Polish via Latin Nicolaus Copernicus Polish surname, literally: "copper nickel" Nicolaus Copernicus
Named in honor of Nicolaus Copernicus.

Copper Cu Greek? via Latin, West Germanic, Old English, and Middle English[23] Κύπριος (Kyprios)? who/which is from Cyprus Latin Cuprum
Possibly ultimately 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." In Latin (during the Roman empire), aes cyprium, ("aes" being the generic Latin 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).

Curium Cm Curie, Marie and Pierre Pierre and Marie Curie and the -um ending
Named in honor of Marie and Pierre Curie, who discovered Radium and researched radioactivity.

Darmstadtium Ds German Darmstadt proper name, literally: "intesine city" toponym
Named for "Darmstadt", where discovered (GSI [disambiguation needed ], located in Wixhausen, a small suburb north of Darmstadt).
It has also been called 'Eka-platinum.[24][25]

Dubnium Db Russian Дубна (Dubna) toponym
Named for "Dubna", where discovered (Joint Institute for Nuclear Research, Dubna, U.S.S.R.). Researchers of Berkeley proposed Hahnium (Ha), named in honor of Otto Hahn, who pioneered to radioactivity and radiochemistry, but the proposal was rejected.[12]

Dysprosium Dy Greek δυσπρόσιτος (dysprositos) hard to get at descriptive
Derived from Greek "δυσπρόσιτος" (dysprositos), means "hard to get at".

Einsteinium Es German Einstein, Albert German surname, literally: "one stone" eponym
Named in honor of Albert Einstein, for his work on theoretical physics including the photoelectric effect.

Erbium Er Swedish Ytterby proper name, literally: "outer village" toponym
Named after the village of Ytterby in Sweden, where large concentrations of Yttria and Erbium are located. Erbia and Terbia were confused in 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.

Europium Eu Ancient Greek Εὐρώπη ("Europe") broad-faced or well-watered toponym;
Named for Europe, the continent where discovered. Europe was named after the fictional Phoenician princess Europa.

Fermium Fm Italian Fermi, Enrico Italian surname, from ferm- "fastener" and -i[26] eponym
Named in honor of "Enrico Fermi", who developed the first nuclear reactor, quantum theory, nuclear and particle physics, and statistical mechanics.

Fluorine F Latin fluor a flowing
From the "Fluorspar", one of its compounds.

Francium Fr French France proper name (literally: Land of the Franks) toponym
Named for "France", where discovered (Curie Institute (Paris)).

Gadolinium Gd Gadolin, Johan eponym
Named in honor 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.)

Gallium Ga Latin Gallia Gaul (Ancient France) toponym
" From Latin Gallia, means Gaul (Ancient France), and also gallus, 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, means "the rooster", or in Latin, gallus.

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

Germanium Ge Latin Germania Germany toponym
From Latin "Germania", means "Germany". Germanium has also been called Eka-silicon by Mendeleev.[25]

Gold Au Anglo-Saxon via Middle English gold Latin aurum
From the Anglo-Saxon, "gold", from PIE *ghel- meaning "yellow/ bright"
Au is from Latin Aurum, means "shining dawn".[27]

Hafnium Hf Latin Hafnia Copenhagen toponym
From Latin "Hafnia", means "Copenhagen" of Denmark.

Hassium Hs Latin Hassia Hesse toponym
Named derived from Latin "Hassia", means Hesse, the German state where discovered (Institute for Heavy Ion Research, Darmstadt).[12] It has also been called 'Eka-osmium.[25]

Helium He Greek ἥλιος (hélios) sun mythological
Named after the Greek, "ἥλιος" (Helios), means "the Sun" or the mythological sun-god .[18]

Holmium Ho Latin Holmia Stockholm toponym
Named derived from Latin "Holmia", means Stockholm.

Hydrogen H Greek via Latin and French ὕδωρ (root: ὑδρ-) + -γενῆς (-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".

Indium In Greek via Latin and English indigo descriptive
Named after "indigo", because of indigo 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".

Iodine I Greek via French ἰώδες (iodes) violet descriptive
Named after the Greek, "ἰώδες" (iodes), means "violet", because of the color of the gas. This word was adapted into French iode which is the source of the English word iodine.[29]

Iridium Ir Greek via Latin ἴρις (genitive: ἴριδος) of rainbows descriptive
Named after the Latin noun "iris", meaning "rainbow, iris plant, iris of the eye", because many of salts are strongly colored; "Iris" was originally the name of the goddess of rainbows and a messenger in Greek mythology.[18]

Iron Fe Anglo-Saxon via Middle English īsern (earlier: īren/īsen)/yren/yron holy metal or strong metal[30] Anglo-Saxon
From the Anglo-Saxon īsern which is derived from Proto-Germanic isarnan meaning "holy metal" or "strong metal" which in its turn may derive from the Etruscan, aisar, meaning "the god(s)", because the earliest iron to be worked (by the Sumerians and Egyptians, around 4000 BC) was obtained from meteorites, and meteorites fall from the sky.[31]
The symbol Fe is from Latin ferrum, meaning "iron".

Krypton Kr Greek κρυπτός (kryptos) hidden descriptive
From Greek "κρυπτός" (kryptos), means "hidden one", because of its colorless, odorless, tasteless, gaseous properties (like other noble gases).

Lanthanum La Greek λανθάνειν (lanthanein) to lie hidden
From Greek lanthanein, "to lie (hidden)".

Lawrencium Lr Lawrence, Ernest O eponym
Named in honor of "Ernest O. Lawrence", who was involved in the development of the cyclotron.

The symbol is Lr since 1963; formerly Lw was used. Unniltrium was used as a temporary systematic element name.[12]

Lead Pb Anglo-Saxon lead
The symbol Pb is from Latin name, Plumbum, hence the English, "plumbing".[18][32]

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.

Lutetium Lu Latin Lutetia Paris toponym
Named after the Latin, Lutetia, the city of "Paris".[12]

Magnesium Mg Greek Μαγνησία (Magnesia) toponym
From the Ancient Greek, "Μαγνήσια" (Magnesia) (district in Thessaly), where discovered.

Manganese Mn Greek via Latin, Italian, and French Μαγνησία (Magnesia; Latin: magnetum) Magnesia descriptive
From Latin Magnesia ultimately from Greek; Magnesia evolved into Manganese in Italian and into Manganèse in French.

Meitnerium Mt Meitner, Lise eponym
Named in honor of Lise Meitner, who shared discovery of nuclear fission.[12] It has also been called 'Eka-iridium.[25]

Mendelevium Md Mendeleyev, Dmitri eponym
Named in honor of Dmitri Mendeleyev, who invented periodic table.[33] It has also been called 'Eka-thulium.[25]

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 Greek name, ὕδωρ and ἀργυρός (hydor and argyros), which became Latin, Hydrargyrum; both mean "water-silver", because it is a liquid like water (at room temperature), and has silvery metallic sheen.[18][34]

Molybdenum Mo Greek μόλυβδος (molybdos) lead-like descriptive
From Greek "μόλυβδος" (molybdos), "lead".

Neodymium Nd Greek νέος δίδυμος (neos didymos) new twin descriptive
Derived from Greek "νέος διδύμος" (neos didymos), means "new twin", because Didymium separated into Praseodymium and Neodymium, when they gave salts of different colors.[35]

Neon Ne Greek νέος (neos) new
From Greek "νέος" (neos) "new".

Neptunium Np Latin Neptunus Neptune mythological
Named for "Neptune", the planet. (The planet was named after "Neptune", the god of oceans in mythology.)[18]

Nickel Ni Swedish via German[36] Kopparnickel/Kupfernickel copper-coloured ore descriptive
From the Swedish, Kopparnickel, meaning "copper-colored ore"; this referred to the ore niccolite from which it was obtained.[37]

Niobium Nb Greek Νιόβη (Niobe) snowy mythological
Named after "Niobe", daughter of Tantalus in Classical mythology.[12][18]

Nitrogen N Greek via Latin and French νίτρον (Latin: nitrum) -γενῆς (-genes) native-soda begetter descriptive
From French "nitrogène"[38] and Latin "nitrum -genes", derived from Greek "νίτρον γείνομαι" (nitron geinomai), meaning "I form/beget native-soda (niter)".[39]

Nobelium No Nobel, Alfred eponym
Named in honor of Alfred Nobel, who invented dynamite and instituted the Nobel Prizes foundation.

Osmium Os Greek via Modern Latin ὀσμή (osme) a smell descriptive
From Greek ὀσμή (osme), means "a smell".

Oxygen O Greek via French ὀξύ γείνομαι (oxy geinomai)/oxygène to bring forth acid
From Greek "ὀξύ γείνομαι" (oxy geinomai), meaning "Ι bring forth acid", as it was believed to be an essential component of acids. This phrase was corrupted into French "oxygène" which became the source of the English word "oxygen."[40]

Palladium Pd Greek via Latin Παλλάς (genitive: Παλλάδος) (Pallas) little maiden[41] 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 neutral version of Παλλάδιος meaning "of Pallas." [42]

Phosphorus P Greek via Latin[43] φῶς + -φόρος (phos + -phoros) light-bearer descriptive
From Greek φῶς + -φόρος (phos + -phoros), means "light bearer", because "White Phosphorus" emits a faint glow upon exposure to oxygen
The word "phosphorus" was ancient name for the "Venus" (the planet as Hesperus (Morning Star).[18]

Platinum Pt Spanish via Modern Latin platina (del Pinto) little silver (of the Pinto River)[44] descriptive
From the Spanish, "platina", means "little silver", because it was first encountered in Silver mine. Platina can also mean "stage (of a microscope)" and the Modern Spanish version of the word is Platino. Platina is a diminutive of Platina "silver" and is a loan word from French plate or Provençal plata "sheet of metal" and is the origin of the English word "plate."[45]

Plutonium Pu Greek via Latin Πλούτων (Ploutōn) via Pluto god of wealth[46] astrological;
Named after "Pluto", the dwarf planet, because it was discovered directly after Neptunium and is higher than Uranium on periodic table, so by analogy with the ordering of the planets. (The planet Pluto was named after "Pluto", a Roman god of the dead) [18] Πλούτων (Ploutōn) is related to the Greek word πλοῦτος (ploutos) meaning "wealth."

Polonium Po Latin Polonia Poland toponym
Named after "Poland", homeland of discoverer Marie Curie. Was also called Radium F.

Potassium K Modern Latin via Dutch and English[47] potassa; potasch via potash[48] pot-ash
From the English, "potash", 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 Dutch loan word "potaschen" meaning "pot ashes."[47] The symbol K is from Latin name, Kalium, from Arabic "القلي" (al qalīy), meaning "calcined ashes".

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 colors.

Promethium Pm Greek Προμηθεύς ("Prometheus") forethought[49] mythological
Named after "Prometheus", who stole the fire of heaven and gave it to mankind (in Classical mythology).[18]

Protactinium Pa Greek πρῶτος + ἀκτίς first beam element descriptive?
Derived from former name Protoactinium, from the Greek prefix proto- "first" + Neolatin "actinium" from Greek ἀκτίς (gen.: ἀκτῖνος) "ray" + Latin -ium.[50]

Radium Ra Latin via French radius ray descriptive
From Latin radius meaning "ray", because of its radioactivity.

Radon Rn Latin via German and English[51] 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".

Rhenium Re Latin Rhenus Rhine toponym
From Latin Rhenus, the river Rhine.

Rhodium Rh Greek ῥόδον (rhodon) rose
From Greek "ῥόδον" (rhodon), means "rose".

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]

Rubidium Rb Latin rubidus deepest red descriptive
From Latin "rubidus", means "deepest red", because of color in spectroscope.

Ruthenium Ru Latin Ruthenia Russia toponym
From Latin "Ruthenia", means "Russia".

Rutherfordium Rf Rutherford, Ernest eponym
Named in honor of Baron Ernest Rutherford, who pioneered the Bohr model of the atom. Rutherfordium has also been called Kurchatovium (Ku), named in honor of Igor Vasilevich Kurchatov, who shared discovered fundamental understanding of the Uranium chain reaction and the nuclear reactor.[12]

Samarium Sm Samarsky-Bykhovets, Vasili eponym
Named after "Samarskite", the mineral. ("Samarskite" was named after "Colonel Vasili Samarsky-Bykhovets", a Russian mine official.)

Scandium Sc Latin Scandia Scandinavia toponym
Named from Latin "Scandia", means "Scandinavia"; formerly Eka-boron.[25]

Seaborgium Sg Swedish via English Seaborg, Glenn Teodor Swedish surname, literally: "Lake Mountain" eponym
Named in honor of "Glenn T. Seaborg", who discovered the chemistry of the transuranium elements, shared discovered and isolated 10 elements, developed and proposed the actinide series. Other names: Eka-tungsten[25] and temporarily by IUPAC Unnilhexium (Unh).[12]

Selenium Se Greek σελήνη (seléne) moon astrological/ mythological
From Greek, "σελήνη" (selene), means "Moon", and also moon-goddess Selene.[18]

Silicon Si Latin silex, -icis flint descriptive
From Latin "silex" or "silicis", means "flint", a kind of stone.

Silver Ag Akkadian via Anglo-Saxon and Middle English

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