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How did argon get its name?

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Quick Answer

The noble gas argon was named by its discoverers, Baron Rayleigh and William Ramsay, in 1894. The name comes from the Greek word argon, the neuter form of the word argos, which means lazy, idle and living without labor. It was so named because of its inert qualities.

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Full Answer

Argon is chemically inactive and only forms compound-like structures under extreme conditions. Ramsay and Rayleigh were doing similar experiments concurrently and discovered the element at about the same time. They decided to make the announcement of the discovery and naming of the element together. Their work was preceded by Henry Cavendish, who had predicted the gas's existence almost 200 years earlier.

In the experiment that led to Cavendish's hypothesis, he removed oxygen and nitrogen from air and found that a small amount of gas remained. Ramsay and Rayleigh identified this unknown gas as argon.

Argon was the first of the noble gases to be discovered. Upon its announcement by Ramsay and Rayleigh, it created a problem for scientists, as they did not know where to place it on the periodic table. Ramsay suggested that the table should be extended to include a whole new group; his suggestion was eventually accepted. Soon after, the remaining members of the noble gases group were found.

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