Group 16
Period 2 Liquid oxygen
3 A sample of sulfur
4 Two of the three allotropes of selenium: black and red. Grey selenium not shown
5 Tellurium in metallic form
6 84
7 116

The chalcogens (pronounced /ˈkælkədʒɨn/) are the chemical elements in group 16 (old-style: VIB or VIA) of the periodic table. This group is also known as the oxygen family. It consists of the elements oxygen (O), sulfur (S), selenium (Se), tellurium (Te), the radioactive element polonium (Po), and the synthetic element ununhexium (Uuh).

Although all group 16 elements of the periodic table, including oxygen are defined as chalcogens, oxygen and oxides are usually distinguished from chalcogens and chalcogenides. The term chalcogenide is more commonly reserved for sulfides, selenides, and tellurides, rather than for oxides.[1][2][3][4] Binary compounds of the chalcogens are called chalcogenides (rather than chalcides; however, this breaks the pattern of halogen/halide and pnictogen/pnictide).

Although the word "chalcogen" is literally taken from Greek words being "copper-former", the meaning is more in line with "copper-ore former" or more generally, "ore-former". These electronegative elements are strongly associated with metal-bearing minerals, where they have formed water-insoluble compounds with the metals in the ores.



Members of this group show similar patterns in their electron configuration, especially the outermost shells, resulting in similar trends in chemical behavior:

Z Element No. of electrons/shell
8 oxygen 2, 6
16 sulfur 2, 8, 6
34 selenium 2, 8, 18, 6
52 tellurium 2, 8, 18, 18, 6
84 polonium 2, 8, 18, 32, 18, 6
116 ununhexium 2, 8, 18, 32, 32, 18, 6

Oxygen and sulfur are nonmetals, and selenium, tellurium, and polonium are metalloid semiconductors (that means, their electrical properties are between those of a metal and an insulator). Nevertheless, tellurium, as well as selenium, is often referred to as a metal when in elemental form.

Metal chalcogenides are common as minerals. For example, pyrite (FeS2) is an iron ore. The rare mineral calaverite is the ditelluride AuTe2.

The formal oxidation number of the most common chalcogen compounds is −2. Other values, such as −1 in pyrite, can be attained. The highest formal oxidation number +6 is found in sulfates, selenates and tellurates, such as in sulfuric acid or sodium selenate (Na2SeO4).

Explanation of above periodic table slice:
Nonmetals Metalloids Poor metals Atomic numbers in red are gases Atomic numbers in black are solids Solid borders indicate primordial elements (older than the Earth) Dashed borders indicate radioactive natural elements Dotted borders indicate radioactive synthetic elements


The name chalcogen comes from the Greek words χαλκος (chalkos, literally "copper"), and γενές (genes, born,[5] gender, kindle). Thus the chalcogens bear copper. It was first used around 1930 by Wilhelm Biltz's group at the University of Hanover, where it was proposed by a man named Werner Fischer.[6] Although the literal meanings of the Greek words imply that chalcogen means "copper-former", this is misleading because the chalcogens have nothing to do with copper in particular. "Ore-former" has been suggested as a better translation,[7] wherefore both the vast majority of metal ores are chalcogenides and the word χαλκος in ancient Greek was associated with metals and metal-bearing rock in general; copper, and its alloy bronze, was one of the first metals to be used by humans.

See also


  1. ^ A Second Note on the Term "Chalcogen"
  2. ^ Francesco Devillanova (Editor) Handbook of Chalcogen Chemistry - New Perspectives in Sulfur, Selenium and Tellurium Royal Society of Chemistry, 2007; ISBN 0854043667, 9780854043668
  3. ^ IUPAC goldbook amides. Chalcogen replacement analogues (of amides) are called thio-, seleno- and telluro-amides.
  4. ^ Ohno Takahisa Passivation of GaAs(001) surfaces by chalcogen atoms (S, Se and Te) Surface Science; Volume 255, Issue 3, 2 September 1991, Pages 229-236; doi:10.1016/0039-6028(91)90679-M
  5. ^ Online Etymology Dictionary -gen
  6. ^ Werner Fischer (2001). "A Second Note on the Term "Chalcogen"". Journal of Chemical Education 78 (10): 1333. Bibcode 2001JChEd..78.1333F. doi:10.1021/ed078p1333.1. 
  7. ^ William B. Jensen (1997). "A Note on the Term "Chalcogen"". Journal of Chemical Education 74 (9): 1063. Bibcode 1997JChEd..74.1063J. doi:10.1021/ed074p1063. 

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  • chalcogen — noun Etymology: International Scientific Vocabulary chalk bronze, ore (from Greek chalkos) + gen; from the occurrence of oxygen and sulfur in many ores Date: circa 1961 any of the elements oxygen, sulfur, selenium, and tellurium …   New Collegiate Dictionary

  • Chalcogen —     …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • chalcogen — /kal keuh jeuhn, jen /, n. Chem. any of the elements oxygen, sulfur, selenium, tellurium, and polonium, which form the VIa group in the periodic table. [1960 65; CHALCHO + GEN] * * * …   Universalium

  • chalcogen — noun Any element of group 16 of the periodic table oxygen, sulphur, selenium, tellurium and polonium …   Wiktionary

  • chalcogen — chal·co·gen …   English syllables

  • chalcogen — ˈkalkəjən, ˌjen noun ( s) Etymology: International Scientific Vocabulary chalc + gen : any of the four elements oxygen, sulfur, selenium, and tellurium forming part of group VI of the periodic table …   Useful english dictionary

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  • oxygen group element — ▪ chemical element Introduction also called  chalcogen,    any of the five chemical elements making up Group 16 (VIa) of the periodic classification namely, oxygen, sulfur, selenium, tellurium, and polonium. (See Figure >.) A relationship among… …   Universalium

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