Names and symbols



The name by which elements are known (ref. 1) is dependent upon language and indeed upon language variants. See below for differences in names used for English and American variants of English. The origins of the names of the elements are given in refs. 2 and 3. Controversy (see below) regarding names of a few heavy elements is now resolved (ref. 4). Names for elements 110-112 have yet to be proposed. Temporary IUPAC systematic names for elements with atomic numbers greater than 100 are given in ref. 5.


The names of elements and their symbols are approved by IUPAC. Its recommendations are published in the journal Pure and Applied Chemistry and sometimes books (ref. 1). There are differences in spelling between a few English and American names (see Table). Those in bold type represent the IUPAC names but, not surprisingly, each country prefers its own spelling, because in each case they are part of the respective English language variant (IUPAC does not seem to recognise all these variants).

English and American spellings

There was some controversy recently over the naming of some of the heavier elements (elements with atomic numbers 104-108). In essence, the Amercian Chemical Society and IUPAC failed to agree over appropriate names for these elements. For discussions of this, see refs. 7 and 8. This controversy is now resolved (ref. 4) and WebElements is using the current IUPAC names.

Current names and Older IUPAC and ACS names of the heavier elements
IUPAC temporary systematicIUPACACSCurrent IUPAC

WebElements uses the proposed provisional name copernicium (Cn) for element 112, temporary IUPAC names ununtrium (Uut) for element 113, ununquadium (Uuq) for element 114, ununpentium (Uup) for element 115, ununhexium (Uuh) for element 116, ununseptium (Uus) for element 117, and ununoctium (Uuo) for element 118. For the origin of these systematic names see ref. 5.

Literature sources

  1. International Union of Pure & Applied Chemistry: Commission on the Nomeclature of Inorganic Chemistry, Nomenclature of Inorganic Chemistry Recommendations 1990, Ed. G.J. Leigh, Blackwell Science, Oxford, 1990.
  2. D.W. Ball, J. Chem. Ed., 1985, 62, 787.
  3. J.G. Stark and H.G. Wallace, J. Chem. Ed., 1970, 47, 152.
  4. Pure Appl. Chem., 1997, 69, 2471.
  5. Pure Appl. Chem., 1979, 51, 381.
  6. Pure Appl. Chem., 1994, 66, 2419.
  7. Chemistry in Britain, 1994, 30, 889.
  8. Chemistry in Britain, 1995, 31, 100.

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