How Are Elements Named?

elements-named Credit: Paolo Trabattoni/CC-BY-2.0

Elements are named when a suggested name is approved by the International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry (IUPAC). Most countries use the element name adopted by IUPAC. Names can come from many areas, including science, mythology, geography and chemical properties.

The origins of the names of elements are diverse. Several elements have kept their ancient names, such as copper, gold and silver. Some are named after colors, such as indium, which takes its name for the Latin word for "indigo." Elements such as uranium and neptunium were named for planets, while francium and germanium were named for countries. Scientists have had elements named after them. For example, curium was named for Marie and Pierre Curie.