Another wonderful specialty word site, this time giving the histories of elements and their names, as well as translations of those names into as many languages as the site’s creator, Peter van der Krogt, could find.

I am not a chemist, but a (map) historian much interested in the origin of names. On several of the sites listing elements you will find historical notes and often an explanation of the origin of element names. However, mostly, the authors of these pages copy each other and the same errors and mistakes are repeated. I tried to do some new etymological research on the element names, and find the original articles where the discoverer of a new element announced his find and explained the naming.

The major part is formed by 115 pages, each describing one element. These pages can be accessed in a number of ways: by name (in dozens of languages), atomic number, date of discovery, discoverer, name origin etc. (see list to the left)…

There’s a list of updates; the latest is:

17 April 2004: Two new languages, Armenian and Mokshan. Elements 101-110 in Latvian added (thanks to Janis Vindavs).

Have I mentioned that I love the internet?

Via an anonymous comment at Cannylinguist, whose entry on German borrowings in English is amusing and worth reading in its own right.


  1. Thanks!

  2. Lars (the original one) says
  3. Thanks, I’ve updated the link in the post!

  4. Latest update:

    13 June 2016: Today I read in the newspaper four new elements were named. Time to update the site again… Earlier this year I Tom Sharp has read the whole text and has sent me many typos and other errors. I have corrected this. Further I made some changes in the elements in Russian and Esperanto. The last four year I received more additions and correction, I hope to add these in the near future…

  5. One more of my favorite recent trivia questions is: Why did IUPAC change the rules for naming new synthetic elements before the discovery of the most recent two? It’s something you can reason out without knowing too many insider details, but the sort of obvious cynical answer that might occur to you is totally wrong. (Another question with those same key features: Why was only the first Darwin Medal awarded in gold?)

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