How Are Elements Named?

Einsteinium is named for Albert Einstein.
Einsteinium is named for Albert Einstein. Library of Congress, Photograph by Oren Jack Turner, Princeton, N.J.

Do you know which element is Azote, with the symbol Az? Element names are not the same in every country. Many countries have adopted the element names that have been agreed upon by the International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry (IUPAC). According to the IUPAC, "elements can be named after a mythological concept, a mineral, a place or country, a property, or a scientist".

If you look at the Periodic Table, you'll see some of the higher numbered elements either have no names (only numbers like 118) or else their names are just another way of saying the number (e.g., Ununoctium). The discovery of these elements hasn't been sufficiently documented for the IUPAC to feel a name is justified yet, or else there is a dispute over who gets credit for the discovery (and the honor of selecting an official name).

More Element Facts