2001-02-17

hydragyrum

Latin for "liquid silver"; the chemical symbol "Hg" for Mercury is derived from this old name for the element. Here are some other elements with chemical symbols that don't match their names unless you know their old names:

Antimony (Sb): Latin stibium from Greek stibi/stimmi, meaning "eye-paint".

Copper (Cu): Latin cuprum, meaning "from Cyprus".

Gold (Au): Latin aurum meaning "gold" (possibly based on the meaning "yellow" for some older word).

Iron (Fe): Latin ferrum, meaning "iron" or "sword".

Lead (Pb): Latin plumbum, meaning "lead". This is the source of the English word "plumber" for a person who works on water pipes (the pipes in Roman cities were made of plumbum).

Mercury (Hg): Latin hydragyrum, meaning "liquid silver".

Potassium (K): Latin kalium, meaning "potassium" or "potash" (a collective name for potassium carbonate, potassium hydroxide, potassium oxide, potassium chloride, and various potassium sulfates used chiefly in fertilizers; the term derives from the practice of leaching wood ashes and evaporating the leach in a pot to obtain the substance).

Silver (Ag): Latin argentum, meaning "silver" or "money".

Sodium (Na): Latin natrium, meaning "sodium". The English sodium comes from English soda, from Arabic suda, meaning "headache".

Tin (Sn): Latin stannum, meaning "tin", or possibly an alloy of plumbum (lead) and argentum (silver).

Tungsten (W): German wolfram, from German volf (wolf) and rahm (froth). The mineral wolframite gets its name from its wolfram (tungsten) content (its full name is "Manganese iron tungstate").

No comments: