How Did Nickel Get Its Name?

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The element nickel is named after the devil. "Nickel" is an anglicized version of "kupfernickel," which is German for "Old Nick's copper." Old Nick is an archaic German term for Satan.

Before nickel was discovered by science in the 18th century, the metal was frequently encountered by copper miners digging for ore. These mostly German miners found large masses of what looked like copper ore in the mine. The teams went through great efforts to extract the ore, only to find that they couldn't smelt it properly. When the miners tried to smelt what they thought was copper, they ended up with nothing but a puddle of slag. Thinking that the devil was playing tricks on them to waste their time, the miners came to call the deceitful metal "devil's copper."

Nickel has since been found to have countless industrial applications. It is a useful metal to alloy with iron and cadmium to produce certain varieties of stainless steel, for example. It is also highly valued for its use in consumer electronics. Combined with cadmium, nickel is an indispensable component of the lightweight rechargeable batteries used in phones and portable computers. A kilogram of nickel can produce 300 kilometers of wire.