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Periodic table names

  1. Mar 6, 2016 #1
    Hi. Why do some countries use different names for the elements instead of their original names as indicated by their symbol?
    Like Na(natriu) is called sodium, Au(aur) is gold, Fe(fier) is iron, Cu(cupru) is copper, Ag(argint) is silver, Pb(plumb) is lead.
    I'm from a Latin/francophone country and was taught like the symbol names, except hg which is still "mercur". Is there a difference between all Latin/french and Germanic/English countries?
  2. jcsd
  3. Mar 6, 2016 #2


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    Same reason that some countries, regions, or cultures have different language. Those elements have been known the longest and have been know by their latin names: natrium, aurum, ferrum, cuprum, argentum,

    Natrium is actually a derivative of the Greek Νάτριο, or νίτρον (nítron)
    The name sodium is thought to originate from the Arabic suda, . . . .

  4. Mar 6, 2016 #3


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    The periodic table is VERY recent in the evolution of human languages and the elements have been known as things (lumps of gold, etc) far back in time so why be surprised that they evolved different words in different languages ... everything else did :smile:

    Edit: I see Astronuc beat me to it.
  5. Mar 6, 2016 #4
    So still lots of countries aren't saying natrium... They're saying sodium. Who told them to say sodium or gold instead of aur/um...Like Pb(plumb) it's lead one minute and it's "plumbing" the next minute when it's used to solder stuff like pipes.
  6. Mar 6, 2016 #5


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    Probably the same people who told the French to say "or", the Poles to say "zloto" and so forth when they should all, according to you, be saying "gold".
  7. Mar 6, 2016 #6
    The French do have the word "aurifère".
  8. Mar 6, 2016 #7


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    If you want to argue about the evolution of languages, it would probably be best to start a new thread. You asked a question and it has been answered.
  9. Mar 6, 2016 #8
    So the answer is everyone adopted what they wanted...like a free for all.
  10. Mar 6, 2016 #9


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    You are still missing the point apparently. Please reread #3 and tell me what part of it does not make sense to you and why it does not answer your question.
  11. Mar 6, 2016 #10
    So... According to post 3.. Everyone's language evolved differently... correct of course... And then when the periodic table came along... it had just the numbers and empty spaces for symbols and names so everyone just put their own symbols and names... sort of like everyone ratified it and in the end we got a mix?!?
  12. Mar 6, 2016 #11


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    Language is inherently chaotic. Rarely -- very rarely -- is the usage of some word dictated by a person or a small group of people. Far more often the usage is dictated by the chaotic whims of the masses.

    And languages change over time in a chaotic fashion too. I wouldn't expect the language you speak now to be even recognizable by your/our decedents, 1000 years into the future.

    Neither dictionaries nor grammar guides are in the business of dictating usage of words or usage of grammar. Rather their primary purpose is to report the present usage of words and language. The key point here is that they report it. They don't define it.

    That is actually pretty close to the truth.

    Nobody "ratified" it. The nature is chaotic. There is no central authority that dictates words of any given, common language (regardless of those individuals who tell you differently -- anybody claiming that they dictate the use of a common language are just fooling themselves).
    Last edited: Mar 6, 2016
  13. Mar 6, 2016 #12


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    It's not just names of some elements that are different in different languages. Also names of cities (London, Londres, Lontoo...), countries (Austria, Autriche, Österreich, Itävalta), and even personal names (John, Juan, Johann, Giovanni...)
  14. Mar 7, 2016 #13


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    Please read about the history of the elements and periodic table. Also, note that many educated folks, including scientists, in the past had some learning of Greek and Latin. Often, the name of an element was determined by the person/scientist who identified the element, and the name might be derived from Greek or Latin.

    Since the early 1900s, International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry (IUPAC, http://www.iupac.org/home/about.html [Broken] ) has been responsible for establishing an international convention for the names of elements.



    Of course, various languages have particular names for the elements, but the symbols (of the periodic table) are the same by virtue of international convention.
    Last edited by a moderator: May 7, 2017
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