What Is a Chemical Element?

Chemical Elements and Examples

Gold sometimes occurs in nature as a pure element.
This is a natural gold crystal. Gold sometimes occurs in nature as a pure element. John Cancalosi, Getty Images

Question: What Is a Chemical Element?

Answer: A chemical element, or an element, is a material which cannot be broken down or changed into another substance using chemical means. Elements may be thought of as the basic chemical building blocks of matter. Depending on how much evidence you require to prove a new element has been created, there are 117 or 118 known elements.

Examples of Elements

  • hydrogen
  • gold
  • sulfur
  • oxygen
  • uranium
  • iron
  • argon

Examples of Substances That Are Not Elements

  • brass
  • water
  • air
  • plastic
  • fire
  • sand