CHEMICAL ELEMENTS

Audio blog post by Dr. Isaacs. Click to listen and read along!

The list of chemical elements on the periodic table is a perennial favorite of spellers and word panelists alike. It’s an easy list to gather, and it’s full of words that run the gamut from very easy to nearly inscrutable. In fact, when Paideia first replaced the first iteration of Words of the Champions in 1995, a list of elements was one of the very first ones to appear in its pages. Here are a few guidelines to keep in mind when you begin to study a list of chemical elements.

  • Most chemical elements end with the suffix –ium. (Exceptions are obvious, like tin, copper, arsenic, gold…that sort of thing.) If you get an element word that sounds like \ēəm\ at the end, you can be 100% sure it will only be spelled –ium. Really? Really.
  • Some of the elements are actually based on geographical names with that suffix –ium appended to the end. Germany, France, America, and even the continent of Europe earned their place on this list.
  • Other elements are based on mythological figures…including some of the most well-known radioactive elements of the atomic age. Elements named after Neptune, Uranus, Prometheus, Thor, and Titan fit this category.
  • Still other elements are named after scientists whose profound contributions to chemistry and physics earned them this honor. You’ll see the likes of Albert Einstein, Marie Curie, and Dmitri Mendeleev represented here.

Uncommon names for elements

We know some chemical elements by their Latin, Greek, or German names as well as their more common English names. These words may not be as common, but they are common enough to appear in the dictionary – and in bees from time to time. It’s these less common names that contribute the abbreviations we see on the periodic table.

  • Argentum (Ag) = silver
  • Aurum (Au) = gold
  • Cuprum (Cu) = copper
  • Ferrum (Fe) = iron
  • Hydrargyrum (Hg) = mercury
  • Kalium (K) = phosphorus
  • Natrium (Na) = sodium
  • Plumbum (Pb) = lead
  • Stannum (Sn) = tin
  • Stibium (Sb) = antimony
  • Wolfram (W) = tungsten

Printable Word List Link: Chemical Elements


Photo credit: Christine L. Miller