20 Examples of Elements and Their Symbols

Chemical elements and their symbols
Illustration by J.R. Bee. ThoughtCo.

Chemical elements are the basic building blocks of matter. Elements are referred to by their names and their symbols. This makes it easier to write chemical structures and equations.


The first 20 elements of the periodic table are listed below. These elements include some of the most abundant in the universe (hydrogen, oxygen, carbon) as well as some of the most unusual (phosphorus, boron).

  1. H - Hydrogen
  2. He - Helium
  3. Li - Lithium
  4. Be - Beryllium
  5. B - Boron
  6. C - Carbon
  7. N - Nitrogen
  8. O - Oxygen
  9. F - Fluorine
  10. Ne - Neon
  11. Na - Sodium
  12. Mg - Magnesium
  13. Al - Aluminum
  14. Si - Silicon
  15. P - Phosphorus
  16. S - Sulfur
  17. Cl - Chlorine
  18. Ar - Argon
  19. K - Potassium
  20. Ca - Calcium

Notice that the symbols are one- and two-letter abbreviations for their names, with a few exceptions where symbols are based on old names. For example, potassium is K for kalium, not P, which is already the element symbol for phosphorus.

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Helmenstine, Anne Marie, Ph.D. "20 Examples of Elements and Their Symbols." ThoughtCo, Apr. 5, 2023, thoughtco.com/examples-of-elements-and-their-symbols-606628. Helmenstine, Anne Marie, Ph.D. (2023, April 5). 20 Examples of Elements and Their Symbols. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/examples-of-elements-and-their-symbols-606628 Helmenstine, Anne Marie, Ph.D. "20 Examples of Elements and Their Symbols." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/examples-of-elements-and-their-symbols-606628 (accessed June 4, 2023).