Atoms and Molecules

Trends in Reactivity and the Periodic Table

How are elements named?

The names of elements often have interesting origins. They have been named after people, places, colors, mythological creatures, or for a variety of other reasons. Some are named after scientists, such as Curium (after Marie and Pierre Curie), Lawrencium (Ernest Lawrence), Seaborgium (Glenn Seaborg), Mendelevium (Dmitri Mendeleev), Einsteinium (Albert Einstein), and Bohrium (Niels Bohr). Others are named after places, such as Lutetium (Lutetia means Paris in Greek), Californium, Berkelium (Berkeley, California), Americium, Dubnium (Dubna, Russia), Hassium (Hessen, Germany), Yttrium, Ytterbium, Terbium, and Erbium (these last four being named after Ytterby, Sweden).

Tantalum (Tantalus), Niobium (Niobe), Promethium (Promethius), Uranium (Uranus), Neptunium (Neptune), Plutonium (Pluto), Palladium (Pallas), and Cerium (Ceres) are all named after mythological creatures.

Though elements can take on different names in different countries, the commonly accepted names are those agreed upon and assigned by the International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry (IUPAC).


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