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The History & Names of the First 10 Chemical Elements

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What is the periodic table?

The periodic table is a representation of the chemical elements, arranged by atomic number, electron configurations, and chemical properties. Elements are organized in rows (called periods) and columns (called groups or families) according to their atomic structure and chemical behavior.

The elements in the same group have similar chemical properties and electron configurations, while elements in the same period have similar electron configurations but different chemical properties.

The elements in the periodic table are organized in such a way that trends and patterns in their physical and chemical properties can be easily observed and understood.

Currently, the periodic table contains a total of 118 elements, including naturally occurring elements as well as those that must be synthesized in a laboratory.

Hydrogen: Its Name & History

The name "hydrogen" comes from the Greek words "hydro" and "genes", which together mean "water-forming". This name was given to hydrogen because it was first discovered by the English chemist Henry Cavendish in 1766 through his experiments on the reaction of metals with steam, in which he observed that one of the products was a gas that he named "flammable air".

Hydrogen gas was later recognized to be a separate substance, and in 1783, Antoine Lavoisier, a French chemist, gave it the name "hydrogen" because of its ability to form water when it burns. The name "hydrogen" was first used by Lavoisier in his book "Elements of Chemistry".

Hydrogen is natively found in the form of H2 which is made up of two covalently bonded hydrogen atoms.

Hydrogen is natively found in the form of H2 which is made up of two covalently bonded hydrogen atoms.

The History of Helium

The name "helium" comes from the Greek god of the sun, Helios. The element was first discovered in 1868 by the French astronomer Jules Janssen and the British astronomer Joseph Norman Lockyer.

Janssen and Lockyer noticed a bright yellow spectral line in the light of the sun during a solar eclipse and concluded that it was caused by a new element that they named "helium", after the Greek god of the sun, Helios.

The element was later found on Earth in natural gas deposits, and it was named "helium" because of its presence in the sun. The name "helium" was first used by Lockyer in a paper he published in 1868.

Did you know there is a helium shortage accounting for the increased cost of having a balloon filled?

Did you know there is a helium shortage accounting for the increased cost of having a balloon filled?

Lithium

The name "lithium" comes from the Greek word "lithos", which means "stone". The element was first discovered in 1817 by the Swedish chemist Johann Arfvedson while he was working with the mineral petalite (LiAlSi2O5(OH)4). He observed a new element in the mineral and named it "lithium" after the Greek word "lithos" since it was found in a mineral.

Lithium is a soft, silvery-white metal and is the lightest of all metals. It is the third element in the periodic table and has the symbol Li. The name "lithium" was first used by Arfvedson in a paper he published in 1818.

Lithium has a ton of industrial applications from pharmaceuticals to the battery inside your phone.

Lithium has a ton of industrial applications from pharmaceuticals to the battery inside your phone.

Beryllium

Beryllium was first discovered in 1798 by Louis Nicolas Vauquelin, a French chemist, while he was analyzing the mineral beryl. He observed a new element in the mineral and named it "beryllium" after the mineral beryl, from which it was first found.

Beryllium is a light, strong, and brittle metal, and is the fourth element in the periodic table and has the symbol Be. The name "beryllium" was first used by Vauquelin in a paper he published in 1800.

meanings-element-names

Boron

The name "boron" comes from the Arabic word buraq, which means "white". The element was discovered in 1808 by Sir Humphry Davy and by Joseph Louis Gay-Lussac and Louis-Jaques Thenard, independently. They observed a new element in borax, an oxide of boron, and named it "boron" due to its presence in borax.

Boron is a metalloid and is found in nature primarily as borates in mineral deposits. The name "boron" was first used by Humphry Davy in his book "Elements of Chemical Philosophy" in 1812.

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meanings-element-names

Carbon

The name "carbon" comes from the Latin word "carbo", which means "charcoal" or "coal". Carbon is one of the oldest known elements and has been known since ancient times. It is found in many forms on Earth, including coal, diamond, and graphite.

Carbon is a key element in many compounds and is essential for life. It is a non-metal and occurs in many allotropes, including graphite, diamond, and fullerenes. The name "carbon" was first used by Antoine Lavoisier in his book "Elements of Chemistry" in 1789.

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Nitrogen

The name "nitrogen" comes from the Greek words "nitron" and "genes", which together mean "niter-forming". However, it wasn't always called nitrogen.

This element was first discovered by the Scottish doctor Daniel Rutherford in 1772 while he was conducting experiments on the composition of air. He observed that a large portion of the air was composed of a gas that did not support combustion or respiration, and he chose to name it "phlogiston" meaning "noxious air".

Later, in 1774, the French chemist Antoine Lavoisier gave it the name "azote" meaning "without life" because it did not support life. The name "nitrogen" was first used by Jean-Baptiste de Lamarck in 1790 in reference to the production of nitric acid from "azote."

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Oxygen

The name "oxygen" comes from the Greek words "oxy" and "genes", which together mean "acid-forming". Oxygen was first discovered by the Swedish chemist Carl Wilhelm Scheele in 1772, but it was independently discovered by the British chemist Joseph Priestley in the same year. Both of them observed a gas that supported combustion and respiration, and Priestley called it "dephlogisticated air".

Later, in 1777, Antoine Lavoisier, the French chemist, gave it the name "oxygène" meaning "acid-former" because it was an important component in the formation of acids. He then use the name in his book "Elements of Chemistry" in 1789.

meanings-element-names

Fluorine

The name "fluorine" comes from the Latin word fluere, meaning "to flow". Fluorine is a highly reactive, pale yellow, corrosive gas first discovered by the French chemist Henri Moissan in 1886 while he was working on isolating hydrogen fluoride (HF) from fluorspar (CaF2) mineral.

When working with fluorspar, Moissan observed a new element present in the mineral and named it "fluorine". He was awarded the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1906 for this achievement.

meanings-element-names

Neon

The name "neon" comes from the Greek word "neos" which means "new". Neon is a noble gas and is present in the Earth's atmosphere in trace amounts.

This element was discovered in 1898 by the British chemists Sir William Ramsay and Morris Travers. They discovered neon while they were studying the liquefaction of inert gases and observing the spectrum of the gases.

Morris and Travers found that the gas that gave off a bright red light when it was excited by electricity and named it "neon" because it was a new element. The name "neon" was first used by Ramsay and Travers in a paper they published in 1898.

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© 2023 Melanie Palen

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