Q:

How did lithium get its name?

A:

Quick Answer

The word "lithium" is derived from the Greek word for stone, "lithos", because it was first discovered in stone. Lithium is one of several alkali metals discovered and named in the early 1800s. The other two, sodium and potassium were also named after the materials that were being studied when they were discovered.

Continue Reading
How did lithium get its name?
Credit: AFP/Getty Images AFP Getty Images

Full Answer

Potassium's name is derived from the English word "potash", a term for plant ashes that is no longer in common use. Sodium's name comes from "soda", a word of possibly Arabic origins that refers to the ashes of a particularly sodium rich plant, the saltwort.

The other two alkali metals had been discovered by an English scientist named Davy, using his newly developed method of electrolysis. Lithium was discovered by the Swedish scientist Johan August Arfwedson 8 years later, in 1817. Arfwedson was studying a mineral called petalite. The mineral had been previously described by a Brazilian scientist named José Andrada, but Andrada had not analysed the mineral's individual components.

While studying the mineral, Arfwedson found that it was composed of silica and alumina. It also contained, at 3% by weight, an unknown alkaline substance. Attempts to draw it out using tartaric acid failed, proving that the substance could not be potassium or magnesium. Arfwedson concluded that this substance must be a new alkali metal. Berzelius, his assistant, notes that it was named "lithium" because it was discovered in a mineral, whereas the two other new metals were discovered in botanical sources.

Learn more about Chemistry

Related Questions

  • Q:

    What element has four neutrons?

    A:

    In the periodic table, lithium is the element with four neutrons. Lithium also has three protons and three electrons. Lithium is an alkali metal that is found in group one on the periodic table.

    Full Answer >
    Filed Under:
  • Q:

    What is the reaction between lithium and water?

    A:

    Uncoated lithium metal reacts with water to form a colorless lithium hydroxide solution and hydrogen gas. The resulting solution is basic because of the resulting hydroxide ions. The reaction is both spontaneous and exothermic, but the amount of heat produced is lower than other metals in group 1A.

    Full Answer >
    Filed Under:
  • Q:

    What is the molar mass of lithium?

    A:

    The molar mass of lithium, represented by the chemical symbol Li, is about 6.94 grams per mole. The molar mass is calculated by finding the atomic weight of a substance per mole of the substance.

    Full Answer >
    Filed Under:
  • Q:

    What are pure elements around the house?

    A:

    Many elements are used in their pure form by ordinary people every day, including carbon, lithium, aluminum and nickel. Sometimes, the presence of an element is unlikely to be noticed, as with the cesium used in smoke detectors, while other uses, such as the mercury used in thermometers, is well known.

    Full Answer >
    Filed Under:

Explore