Where Do the Elements’ Names Come From?

Below is a chart with elements in alphabetical order by name. If you’d like to search for a specific element by name, number, or symbol quickly, a search bar is provided above the chart. Have fun!

Element Name Origins

NameAtomic NumberNumberOrigin
Actinium89AcFrom the Greek word "aktinos," meaning "ray" or "beam."
Aluminum13AlFrom the Latin "alumen," meaning "alum," or "bitter salt."
Americium95AmNamed after America.
Antimony51SbSb comes from the Latin word "stibium," referring to the mineral stibnite. "Antimony" comes from the Greek "antimonos," meaning "against solitude," since antimony is believed to never exist in pure form, but always in compounds.
Argon18ArFrom the Greek "argon" meaning "inactive" or "slow."
Arsenic33AsFrom the Greek "arsenikon," meaning "yellow orpiment."
Astatine85AtFrom the Greek "astatos," meaning "unstable."
Barium56BaFrom the Greek "barys," meaning "heavy."
Berkelium97BkNamed after the place of its discovery, the University of California, Berkeley.
Beryllium4BeFrom the Greek "beryllos," referring to beryl.
Bismuth83BiFrom the German word "wismuth," meaning "white mass."
Bohrium (originally Unnilseptium)107BhNamed in honor of Niels Bohr.
Boron5BFrom the Arabic "buraq," referring to borax.
Bromine35BrFrom the Greek "bromos," meaning "stench."
Cadmium48CdFrom the Latin "cadmia," meaning "calamine."
Caesium55CsFrom the Latin "caesius," meaning "sky blue." The color refers to the bright-blue lines in its spectrum.
Calcium20CaFrom the Latin "calx," meaning "lime."
Californium98CfNamed after California.
Carbon6CFrom the Latin "carbo," meaning "charcoal."
Cerium58CeNamed after the asteroid Ceres, which is named after the Roman goddess of fertility.
Chlorine17ClFrom the Greek "chloros," meaning "yellow green" after the color of its gas.
Chromium24CrFrom the Greek "chroma," meaning "color" due to its colorful compounds.
Cobalt27CoForm the German "kobold," meaning "evil spirit" or "evil sprite." Miners called it this because it was poisonous and polluting other mined elements.
Copernicium (originally Ununbium)112CnNamed after Nicolaus Copernicus.
Copper29CuFrom the Greek "kyprios," or the island of Cyprus.
Curium96CmNamed in honor of Marie and Pierre Curie.
Darmstadtium (originally Ununnilium)110DsNamed after Darmstadt, Germany, where it was discovered.
Dubnium (originally Unnilpentium)105DbNamed after Dubna, Russia, where it was discovered.
Dysprosium66DyFrom the Greek "dysprositos," meaning "hard to get at/obtain."
Einsteinium99EsNamed in honor of Albert Einstein.
Erbium68ErNamed after the village of Ytterby, Sweden. Large amounts of erbium were found there.
Europium63EuNamed after Europe, where it was discovered.
Fermium (originally Unnilnilium)100FmNamed in honor of Enrico Fermi.
Flerovium (originally Ununquadium)114FlNamed in honor of Georgy Flyorov.
Fluorine9FFrom the Latin "fluere," meaning "to flow."
Francium87FrNamed after France, where it was discovered.
Gadolinium64GdNamed in honor of Johan Gadolin.
Gallium31GaFrom the Latin "Gallia," for "Gaul," Ancient France.
Germanium32GeFrom the Latin "Germania," or "Germany."
Gold79AuFrom the Latin "aurum," meaning "shining dawn."
Hafnium72HfFrom the Latin "Hafnia," meaning "Copenhagen."
Hassium (originally Unniloctium)108HsFrom the Latin "Hassia," meaning "Hesse." Hesse is the German state where it was discovered.
Helium2HeFrom the Greek "helios," meaning "the sun." It was first discovered when observing the Sun's spectrum lines.
Holmium67HoFrom the Latin "Holmia," meaning "Stockholm."
Hydrogen1HFrom the Greek "hydro" (water) and "genes" (forming).
Indium49InNamed after its indigo colored spectrum line.
Iodine53IFrom the Greek "iodes," meaning "violet." Iodine gas has a violet color.
Iridium77IrFrom the Latin "iris," meaning "rainbow."
Iron26FeFe comes from the Latin word for iron: "ferrum." "Iron" comes from the Anglo-Saxon word "iren."
Krypton36KrFrom the Greek "kryptos," meaning "hidden" because of its rarity and lack of color and taste.
Lanthanum57LaFrom the Greek "lanthanein," meaning "to lie hidden." Lanthanum is the first on the table as a rare earth metal.
Lawrencium103LrNamed in honor of Ernest Lawrence.
Lead82PbPb comes from the Latin "plumbum," or "waterworks." Lead is an Anglo-Saxon word.
Lithium3LiFrom the Greek "lithos," or "stone." It was discovered from a mineral.
Livermorium (originally Ununhexium)116LvNamed after Livermore, California. The city was named after Robert Livermore.
Lutetium71LuFrom the Latin word for Paris, "Lutetia."
Magnesium12MgFrom the Greek "Magnesia," the district in Thessaly where it was discovered.
Manganese25MnFrom the Latin "magnes," meaning "magnet."
Meitnerium (originally Unnilennium)109MtNamed in honor of Lise Meitner.
Mendelevium (originally Unnilunium)101MdNamed in honor of Dmitri Mendeleev.
Mercury80HgHg comes from the Greek "hydrogyrum," meaning "liquid silver." The name mercury comes from the Roman messenger god.
Molybdenum42MoFrom the Greek "molybdos," or "lead."
Moscovium (originally Ununpentium)115McNamed after Moscow (Moscovia) where it was discovered.
Neodymium60NdFrom the Greek "neo" (twin) and "didymus" (twin). Didymium separates into praseodymium and neodymium, hence the name "new twin."
Neon10NeFrom the Greek "neos," or "new."
Neptunium93NpNamed after Neptune the planet, which is named after the Roman god of the sea.
Nickel28NiFrom the German "kupfernickel," or Devil's copper. It can also be translated as "false copper," since the ore from which it was mined looked like copper.
Nihonium (originally Ununtrium)113NhNamed after Japan (Nihon) where it was discovered.
Niobium41NbFrom the daughter Niobe of Tantalus in Greek mythology.
Nitrogen7NFrom the Greek "nitergen," or "saltpeter/soda producing."
Nobelium (originally Unnilbium)102NoNamed in honor of Alfred Nobel.
Oganesson (originally Ununoctium)118OgNamed after Yuri Oganessian.
Osmium76OsFrom the Greek "osme," meaning "smell." Osmium tetroxide gives off a terrible odor.
Oxygen8OFrom the Greek "oxygeinomai," or "acid producing."
Palladium46PdNamed after the asteroid Pallas, which is named after the Greek goddess Pallas Athena.
Phosphorus15PFrom the Greek "phosphoros," meaning "light bearer." This is named as such because white phosphorus glows when exposed to oxygen.
Platinum78PtFrom the Spanish "platina," or "little silver."
Plutonium94PuNamed after the dwarf planet Pluto because it was discovered right after Neptunium and is higher on the periodic table than Uranium. The planet, in turn, is named after the Roman god Pluto.
Polonium84PoFrom the Latin "Polonia," for "Poland," the homeland of Marie Curie who discovered it.
Potassium19KK comes from the Arabic name "al-qaliy," meaning "calcined ashes." The Latin transliteration is "kalium." From the word potash (it was extracted in a pot from the ash of burned wood or leaves).
Praseodymium59PrFrom the Greek "prasios didymus," meanign "green twin" (see Neodymium).
Promethium61PmNamed after the Greek god Prometheus.
Protactinium91PaFrom the Greek "protos"
(first) combined with Latin "actinium" (from Greek "aktinos," or "ray.")
Radium88RaFrom the Latin "radius," meaning "ray."
Radon86RnDerived the the name radium.
Rhenium75ReFrom the Latin word for the Rhine river, "Rhenus."
Rhodium45RhFrom the Greek "rodon," meaning "rose." It describes the color of the compounds it forms.
Roentgenium (originally Unununium)111RgNamed in honor of Wilhelm Röntgen.
Rubidium37RbFrom the Latin "rubidus," or "deepest red." This refers to the color of some of its spectral lines.
Ruthenium44RuFrom the Latin "Ruthenia," or "Russia."
Rutherfordium (originally Unnilquadium)104RfNamed in honor of Ernest Rutherford.
Samarium62SmNamed after the mineral samarskite.
Scandium21ScFrom the Latin word "Scandia," or "Scandinavia."
Seaborgium (originally Unnilhexium)106SgNamed in honor of Glenn Seaborg.
Selenium34SeFrom the Greek word for the Moon, "selene."
Silicon14SiFrom the Latin "silex," meaning "flint/hard stone."
Silver47AgAg comes from the Latin word for silver: "argentum." "Silver" comes from the Anglo-Saxon word "seolfor."
Sodium11NaFrom the English word "soda," since "soda" is used in sodium compound names.
Strontium38SrNamed after the mineral strontianite. The mineral was named after its source in Strontian, Scotland.
Sulfur16S"Sulfur" means "brimstone" in Latin.
Tantalum73TaFrom the Greek god Tantalus. It's non-reactivity is paralleled by the tale of Tantalus. In his afterlife, he stood in water and whenever he bent down to drink, it would sink to an unreachable level.
Technetium43TcFrom the Greek "technetos," meaning "artificial."
Tellurium52TeFrom the Latin "tellus," meaning "Earth."
Tennessine (originally Ununseptium)117TsNamed after Tennessee, it was here where an important step in its production was made.
Terbium65TbNamed after the village Ytterby, Sweden, where it was first discovered.
Thallium81TlFrom the Greek "thallos," meaning "green twig." This refers to its bright green spectral lines.
Thorium90ThNamed after the Norse god of war.
Thulium69TmNamed after the Greco-Roman mythical country "Thule," likely an ancient name of Scandinavia.
Tin50SnSn comes from its Latin name "stannum." From the Anglo-Saxon word "tin."
Titanium22TiFrom the Greek mythological titans, the firstborn children of Gaia.
Tungsten74WFrom the Swedish "tung sten," meaning "heavy stone."
Uranium92UNamed after the planet Uranus.
Vanadium23VFrom the Norse goddess of beauty Vanadis. It forms colorful compounds.
Xenon54XeFrom the Greek "xenos," meaning "stranger/foreigner."
Ytterbium70YbSee Terbium. Named after ytterbia, ytterbium's oxide compound.
Yttrium39YSee Terbium.
Zinc30ZnFrom the German "zinke," meaning "spiked." This refers to its spiked crystals.
Zirconium40ZrFrom the Arabic "zarkum," meaning "gold-like." "Zirkon," is the German variant.

Resources: These resources provided me with the information for the element etymologies: KnowledgeDoor, Wikipedia, Upper Canada District School Board, Oxford Dictionaries, WebElements (click on different elements for information).

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