Which Elements Are Named After Planets?

Many of the elements in the periodic table are of Latin or Greek origin, but four are named after heavenly bodies: uranium, neptunium, tellurium (named for "tellus," the Latin word for Earth) and plutonium. Some elements that appear to be named after planets actually are named for Greek or Latin deities. One example is mercury, which is named after Mercury, the Roman messenger of the gods.

It must be noted that most planets are named after Greek or Latin gods. Plutonium is named after the dwarf planet Pluto. Originally considered a major planet in the solar system, Pluto was named after the Greek god Pluto, the ruler of the underworld.

Neptunium takes its name from Neptune, the eighth and farthest planet from the Sun, which is named after the Roman god of the sea. Tellurium derives its name from the word "tellus," which means Earth in Latin. Tellurium, however, is far more common in space than it is on Earth.

Elements named after other heavenly bodies include helium, after the Greek word "hellos," meaning "sun"; selenium, from the Greek "selene," which means "moon"; cerium, named after Ceres, the largest orbiting asteroid between Mars and Jupiter; and palladium, which takes its name from the asteroid Pallas.