|Why the symbols and the name of some of the
elements are different?|
|Question Date: 2017-03-09|
The elements are named based on the number of
protons and neutrons inside each atom (the
number of electrons inside is the same as
protons). Those have the same protons are the same
elements. With the same number of protons, the
number of neutrons could be different. That's why
we have isotopes. Those isotopes could have
different properties. It is why we have to give
them different names and symbols in order to avoid
confusion between them.
The names and symbols of some elements are from
Sodium is Na, from the Latin word 'natrium,' which
is actually the word for sodium bicarbonate,
according to the internet.
Tungsten is 'W' for 'wolfram,' from German words
'wolf' and 'rham,' which means 'wolf cream'!
Check out Wikipedia for more details of this
names on elements.
Gold's symbol, Au, comes from the Latin word
'arum'. I'm guessing our word 'aura' comes from
the same Latin word.
You mean like "why is Iron Fe and not Ir?" and
the like? It's usually due to languages -
Iron is ferrum in Latin, for example. I don't know
what the latin words for mercury and lead are
(Spanish for lead is plomo, which I'm sure is
similar to the Latin). In the case of Ir, Ir is
iridium, which is its own element.
I also recommend you to read the Wikipedia
names on elements , it has interesting
information for your question.
Chemical elements are also named after
people. Other elements are named after
places on the planet earth; few elements are
named after astronomical places, for
example, helium is named after the Greek
word for the sun Helios.
The element curium is named after Marie
Curie and Pierre Curie, both scientists won the
Physics Nobel Award in 1903. The element
californium was first made in 1950 at the
University of California Radiation Laboratory in
Berkeley. Californium has the symbol Cf and its
name is because it was made here in California.
I recommend you to read the book Obsessive
Genius: The Inner World of Marie Curie (Great
Discoveries) by Barbara Goldsmith, you will
enjoy very much reading about the life and
scientific work of the couple Curie.
Some of the elements are called by an English
name, but their symbols are based on their
Latin name. One example is lead which is
abbreviated Pb which stands for “plumbum” which is
the source of the word plumbing. Others are sodium
(Na – natrium), potassium (K - kalium), gold (Au
– aurum), silver (Ag – argentum), tungsten (W –
wolfram), iron (Fe – ferrum), antimony (Sb –
stibium), tin (Sn – stannum), and mercury (Hg –
hydrargyrum). Since elements have been discovered
in many nations across many time periods, there
were sometimes multiple conflicting names. In
addition, many things in science are named in
Latin because that was considered the language
that highly learned people would use. Therefore,
some elements have multiple names and in some
situations, the formal name and the name used for
the abbreviation are different.
I think this is a really interesting question
because the current method of abbreviating
elements doesn’t seem to make sense at all.
Shouldn’t all the symbols reflect the element’s
name? It is important to remember that not all
elements were discovered by scientists in the
English speaking world. The symbol sometimes
reflects the name of the element in a different
language. For example: W is the symbol for
tungsten which was discovered by a German
scientist. In German, they call the element
‘wolfram’ so thus the symbol is W.
Modern scientists also drew upon the work of
many classical texts in order to rediscover the
elements, and because of this, the element’s
symbol is a reference to the classical name. Hg is
the symbol for mercury which was called hydragyrum
in Latin. Fun fact, hydragyrum means “water
silver” which pretty accurately describes what
mercury looks like. You may be wondering now,
why do we bother keeping these old names?
Wouldn’t it be much simpler to let each language
have their own naming convention for the
elements? It may seem easier in the short term
but since science comes from collaboration the
most basic “language” should be something that can
be understood by everyone. For this reason, the
element symbols are consistently named regardless
of language. Thank you for your question!
The different chemical elements all have
different names because, well, they’re all
different! They have different weights, sizes,
different numbers of protons and electrons and
neutrons, and they have different properties! Some
are gases, some are metals, some are in between!
The symbols are just used so we don’t have to
write our their full names, kind of like a
chemical nickname. Without all of the
different elements in the periodic table, we
wouldn’t be living in such a diverse world.
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