Chemical elements in East Asian languages

The names for chemical elements in East Asian languages, along with those for some chemical compounds (mostly organic), are among the newest words to enter the local vocabularies. Except for those metals well-known since antiquity, most elements had their names created after modern chemistry was introduced to East Asia in the 18th and 19th century, with more translations being coined for those elements discovered later.

While most East Asian languages use—or have used—the Chinese script, only the Chinese language uses the characters as the predominant way of naming elements. On the other hand, the Japanese, Koreans and Vietnamese primarily employ native writing systems for the names of the elements, such as Katakana, Hangul and Quốc Ngữ, respectively.


In Chinese, characters for the elements are the last officially created and recognized characters in the Chinese writing system. Unlike characters for unofficial varieties of Chinese (e.g., written Cantonese) or other now-defunct ad hoc characters (e.g., those by the Empress Wu), the names for the elements are official, consistent, and taught (with Mandarin pronunciation) to every Chinese and Taiwanese student who has attended public schools (usually by the first year of middle school). New names and symbols are decided upon by the China National Committee for Terms in Sciences and Technologies.[1]

Native characters

Some metallic elements were already familiar to the Chinese, as their ores were already excavated and used extensively in China for construction, alchemy, and medicine. These include the long-established group of "Five Metals" (五金) — gold (金), silver (銀/银), copper (銅/铜), iron (鐵/铁), and tin (錫/锡) — as well as lead (鉛/铅) and mercury (汞).

Some non-metals were already named in Chinese as well, because their minerals were in widespread use. For example,

Characters based on European pronunciations

However, the Chinese did not know about most of the elements until they were isolated during the Industrial Age. These new elements therefore required new characters, which were invented using the phono-semantic principle. Each character consists of two parts, one to signify the meaning and the other to hint at the sound:

  1. The semantic (meaning) part is also the radical of the character. It refers to the element's usual state at room temperature and standard pressure. There are only four radicals used for elements: / (jīn "gold; metal") for solid metals, (shí "stone, rock") for solid non-metals, / (shuǐ "water") for liquids, and ( "air, steam") for gases.
  2. The phonetic (sound) part represents the character's pronunciation and is a partial transliteration of the element. For each element character, this is a unique phonetic component. Since 118 elements have been discovered, there are over 100 different phonetic components used in naming the elements. Current practice dictates that new names should avoid being homophonous with previous element names, or with organic functional groups. However, this rule was not rigorously followed in the past, and confusingly, tin (锡) and selenium (硒) have names that are both pronounced xī.[2] To avoid further confusion, P.R.C. authorities avoided using the name 矽 for silicon.
Examples of characters derived from European pronunciations
Semantic Phonetic Element Source
/ + = / () lithium
/ + jiǎ = / (jiǎ) kalium, Latin name for potassium
/ + / nèi or = / () natrium, Latin name for sodium
/ + or = / (tì/tī) stibium, Latin name for antimony
/ + niè = / (niè) nickel
/ + = / () cadmium
/ + / = / () wolframium, Latin name for tungsten
/ + = / () bismuth
/ + yóu = /
   (Taiwan yòu* / Mainland yóu)
/ + / = / () aluminium
+ diǎn = (diǎn) iodine
+ hài = (hài) helium
+ = () fluorine
+ nǎi = (nǎi) neon
+ guī = (guī) silicon (P.R.C.), from Japanese transliteration

'珪' (kei, けい) of archaic Dutch 'keiaarde'.

Note that R.O.C. (Taiwan), Hong Kong,

and Macau use 矽 derived from silicon.

/ is primarily pronounced as nèi, but has less commonly as , the source of /. Likewise, the primary pronunciation of is , but the alternate reading of gave rise to .
* The derived pronunciation differs (in tone or in sound) from the pronunciation of the element.

The "water" radical () is rarely used, since only two elements (bromine and mercury) are truly liquid at standard room temperature and pressure. Both of their characters are not based on the European pronunciation of the elements' names. Bromine (), the only liquid nonmetal at room temperature, is explained in the following section. Mercury (), now grouped with the heavy metals, was long classified as a kind of fluid in ancient China.

Meaning-based characters

A few characters, though, are not created using the above "phono-semantic" design, but are "semantic-semantic", that is, both of its parts indicate meanings. One part refers to the element's usual state (like the semanto-phonetic characters), while the other part indicates some additional property or function of the element. In addition, the second part also indicates the pronunciation of the element. Such elements are:

Semantic Semantic Element English Note
/ + bái (white) = / [note 1] platinum The character is repurposed.[note 2]
+ chòu (stinky) = xiù[note 1] bromine odorous (Greek βρῶμος brómos also means "stench")
+ yáng, short for / yǎng (to nourish/foster) = yǎng[note 3] oxygen A continuous supply of oxygenated air nourishes almost all animals
+ /𢀖 jīng, short for / qīng (light-weight) = / qīng[note 3] hydrogen the lightest of all elements
+ / , short for /绿 (green) = / [note 3] chlorine greenish yellow in color
+ yán, short for dàn (diluted) = dàn[note 3] nitrogen dilutes breathable air
+ lín, short for lín (glow) = lín phosphorus emits a faint glow in the dark
  1. ^ a b The pronunciation of these characters come from the second semantic characters' nearly obsolete pronunciations. Nowadays 白 (white) is normally pronounced bái in the standard Mandarin dialect, although traditionally bó was preferred. Similarly, (stinky) is almost always pronounced chòu, as opposed to x, now an archaic reading.
  2. ^ The original meaning of / is "thin sheet of gold" (now obsolete). The character was not associated with platinum until modern time, since platinum was known in the Old World only after the Age of Discovery.
  3. ^ a b c d The apparent mismatch in pronunciation with the phonetic component is because the pronunciation is inherited from another character that provides the meaning. For example, the ultimate source of the pronunciation of yǎng (oxygen) is not yáng (sheep), but / yǎng (to nourish/foster).

Recently discovered elements

In 2015, IUPAC recognised the discovery of four new elements. In November 2016, IUPAC published their formal names and symbols: nihonium (113Nh), moscovium (115Mc), tennessine (117Ts), and oganesson (118Og).

Subsequently, in January 2017, the China National Committee for Terms in Sciences and Technologies published four naming characters for these elements.[1] The National Academy for Educational Research under the Ministry of Education of the Republic of China on Taiwan published an identical list in April 2017.[3] For traditional Chinese, nihonium and moscovium were then existing characters; while in simplified Chinese, only moscovium already existed in the Unicode Standard. The missing characters were added to Unicode version 11.0 as urgently-needed characters in June 2018.[4]

The Chinese characters for these symbols are:

Nihonium: Traditional: U+9268 (HTML 鉨) Simplfied: U+9FED (HTML 鿭) Nihonium zh-hans.svg ()
Moscovium: Traditional: U+93CC (HTML 鏌) Simplfied: U+9546 (HTML 镆) ()
Tennessine: Both Traditional and Simplfied: U+9FEC (HTML 鿬) Tennessine zh.svg (tián)
Oganesson: Both Traditional and Simplfied: U+9FEB (HTML 鿫) Oganesson zh-hans.svg (ào)

In the periodic table

Periodic table zh-hans
Periodic table using simplified Chinese characters


Comparison of Mainland China, Taiwan and SAR names
English Z Mainland China Taiwan Hong Kong/Macau
silicon 14 guī gwai1, zik6
technetium 43 daap1, dak1
lutetium 71 liú lou5, lau4
astatine 85 ài è ngaai6, ngo5
francium 87 fāng fong1, faat3
neptunium 93 nài noi6, naa4
plutonium 94 bat1
americium 95 méi méi mei4, mui4
berkelium 97 péi běi pui4, bak1
californium 98 kāi hoi1, kaa1
einsteinium 99 āi ài oi1, oi3

A minority of the "new characters" are not completely new inventions, as they coincide with archaic characters, whose original meanings have long been lost to most people. For example, (protactinium), (beryllium), (chromium), and (lanthanum) are obscure characters meaning "raw iron", "needle", "hook", and "harrow" respectively.

The majority of the elements' names are the same in Simplified Chinese and Traditional Chinese, merely being variants of each other, since most of the names were translated by a single body of standardization before the PRC-ROC split. However, since francium and the transuranium elements were discovered during or after the split, they have different names in Taiwan and in Mainland China. In Hong Kong, both Taiwanese and Mainland Chinese names are used.[5]

The isotopes of hydrogen – protium (1H), deuterium (D) and tritium (T) – are written 氕 piē, 氘 dāo and 氚 chuān, respectively, in both simplified and traditional writing. 鑀 is used in Taiwan for both einsteinium (mainland China: 锿) and ionium, a previous name for the isotope thorium-230.


Like other words in the language, elements' names in Japanese can be native, from China (Sino-Japanese) or from Europe (gairaigo).

Names based on European pronunciations

Even though the Japanese language also uses Chinese characters (kanji), it primarily employs katakana to transliterate names of the elements from European languages (often German/Dutch or Latin [via German] or English). For example,

English Japanese Note
antimony anchimon (アンチモン) This form without the final vowel (i from y) is likely from Dutch (antimoon) or German (Antimon)
tungsten tangusuten (タングステン) from English; other major European languages refer to this element as wolfram or tungsten with some additional syllable (-o, -e, etc.).
sodium natoriumu (ナトリウム) natrium in Latin
uranium uran (ウラン) Uran in German
iodine yōso (ヨウ素 / 沃素) -yō (ヨウ, "io-" [joː], like German Jod [joːt]) + -so (, "element/component"). Chinese uses (diǎn), the second syllable of iodine.
fluorine fusso (弗素) futsu () approximates flu-. Similar to the Chinese: , plus the "air" radical (气). As is not a commonly used kanji, it is often written フッ素, using katakana.

Native names

On the other hand, elements known since antiquity are Chinese loanwords, which are mostly identical to their Chinese counterparts, albeit in the Shinjitai, for example, iron () is tetsu (Tang-dynasty loan) and lead () is namari (native reading). While all elements in Chinese are single-character in the official system, some Japanese elements have two characters. Often this parallels colloquial or everyday names for such elements in Chinese, such as 水銀/水银 (pinyin: shuǐyín) for mercury and 硫黃/硫黄 (pinyin: liúhuáng) for sulfur. A special case is tin (, suzu), which is more often written in katakana (スズ).

English Japanese Chinese Note
mercury suigin (水銀) (gǒng) lit. "watery silver" aka. quicksilver, like the element's symbol, Hg (Latin/Greek hydro-argyrum, "water-silver"). In the Greater China Region, 水銀/水银 is being used wider than 汞 because 汞 usually won't be taught until the chemistry class but 水銀/水银 is the word used in daily life; for example, when people talk about the mercury liquid in the thermometer, most people would say "水銀/水银" but not 汞. This kind of thermometer is called "水銀溫度計/水银温度计" (lit. "watery silver thermometer") in Chinese instead of "汞溫度計/汞温度计" (lit. "mercury thermometer"), which is not being used at all. However, is also exists in Japanese, but extremely rare, serves as an alternative reading of the obsolete reading mizugane.
sulfur , formerly iwō (硫黄) (liú) (ō) means "yellow", to distinguish from other characters pronounced the same.
zinc aen (亜鉛) 鋅/锌 (xīn) meaning "light lead"; 鉛 is "lead" in Japanese and Chinese.
platinum hakkin (白金) (bó) lit. "white gold". Like 水銀/水银 and 汞 in Chinese, 白金 is the "daily" word, and 鉑/铂 is the formal name and usually won't be taught until the chemistry class. In mainland China, jewelry stores usually use the word "白金" or "铂金".
arsenic hiso (砒素) (shēn) hi () < (砒霜) hishima, the Chinese name for arsenic trioxide (pīshuāng). In modern Chinese, arsenic is instead shēn (砷), an approximation of the second syllable of arsenic.

The kanji is quite rare. Often written ヒ素 using katakana.

boron hōso (硼素, "borax element") (péng) (ホウ) < hōsa (硼砂), the Chinese name for borax (péngshā). Boron is still called péng in modern Chinese.

The kanji is extremely rare. Mostly written ホウ素 using katakana.

Meaning-based names

Some names were later invented to describe properties or characteristics of the element. They were mostly introduced around the 18th century to Japan, and they sometimes differ drastically from their Chinese counterparts. The following comparison shows that Japanese does not use the radical system for naming elements like Chinese.

English Japanese Chinese Note
hydrogen suiso (水素, "water's element") 氫/氢 (qīng) translation of the hydro- prefix
carbon tanso (炭素, "coal element") (tàn) translation of the German word for carbon, Kohlenstoff ("coal substance").
nitrogen chisso (窒素, "the suffocating element") (dàn) translation of the German word for nitrogen, Stickstoff ("suffocating substance"). While nitrogen is not toxic per se, air-breathing animals cannot survive breathing it alone (without sufficient oxygen mixed in).
oxygen sanso (酸素, "acid's element") (yǎng)

similar to the German word for oxygen, Sauerstoff ("sour substance") or the Greek-based oxygen ("acid maker").
Many 19th-century European chemists erroneously believed that all acids contain oxygen. (Many common ones do, but not all.)

silicon keiso (硅素 / 珪素) (guī) same as Chinese; the kanji is extremely rare. Often written ケイ素 using katakana.
phosphorus rin () (lín) similar to Chinese, except the "stone" radical replacing the "fire" radical. The kanji is rare. Usually written リン using katakana.
chlorine enso (塩素, "salt's element") (lǜ) it and sodium make up common table salt (NaCl); is the Shinjitai version of .
bromine shūso (臭素, "the stinky element") (xiù) similar to Chinese, except the lack of the "water" radical.


As the Hanja (Sino-Korean characters) are now rarely used in Korea, all of the elements are written in Hangul. Since many Korean scientific terms were translated from Japanese sources, the pattern of naming is mostly similar to that of Japanese. Namely, the classical elements are loanwords from China, with new elements from European languages. But recently, some elements' names were changed. For example:

English Korean (before 2014) Source (South) Korean (after 2014)
gold geum (금) from Chinese jin (金) geum (금)
silver eun (은) from Chinese yin (銀) eun (은)
antimony antimon (안티몬) from German antimoni (안티모니)
tungsten teongseuten (텅스텐) from English teongseuten (텅스텐)
sodium nateuryum (나트륨) from Latin or German (Na for natrium) sodyum (소듐)
potassium kalyum (칼륨) from Latin or German kalium potasyum (포타슘)
manganese manggan (망간) from German Mangan mangganijeu (망가니즈)

Pre-modern (18th-century) elements often are the Korean pronunciation of their Japanese equivalents, e.g.,

English Korean (Hangul, hanja)
hydrogen suso (수소, 水素)
carbon tanso (탄소, 炭素)
nitrogen jilso (질소, 窒素)
oxygen sanso (산소, 酸素)
chlorine yeomso (염소, 鹽素)
zinc ayeon (아연, 亞鉛)
mercury sueun (수은, 水銀)


Some of the metals known since antiquity are loanwords from Chinese, such as copper (đồng from ), tin (thiếc from ), mercury (thuỷ ngân from 水銀), sulfur (lưu huỳnh from 硫黄), oxygen (dưỡng khí from 氧氣; ôxy is the more common name) and platinum (bạch kim from 白金; platin is another common name). Others have native Vietnamese readings, such as sắt for iron, bạc for silver, chì for lead, vàng for gold, kền for nickel (niken is the more common name) and kẽm for zinc. In either case, now they are written in the Vietnamese alphabet. Before the Latin alphabet was introduced, sắt was rendered as 𨫊, bạc as , chì as 𨨲, vàng as , kền as 𨪝 and kẽm as 𨯘 in Chữ Nôm.

The majority of elements are shortened and localized pronunciations of the European names (usually from French). For example:

  • Phosphorus becomes phốtpho.
  • The -ine suffix is lost, e.g., chlorine, iodine and fluorine become clo, iốt and flo, respectively.
  • The -um suffix is lost, e.g., caesium becomes xêzi, pronounced /sezi/; compare the French césium, pronounced /sezjɔm/ (whereas the English is /sizi-/).
    • Similarly, beryllium, tellurium, lithium, natrium (sodium), and lanthanum become berili, telua, liti, natri, and lantan respectively
  • The -gen suffix is lost, e.g., nitrogen, oxygen and hydrogen become nitơ, ôxy and hiđrô, respectively

A minority of elements, mostly those not suffixed with -ium, retain their full name, e.g.,

  • Tungsten (aka wolfram) becomes volfram.
  • Bismuth becomes bitmut.
  • Aluminium becomes nhôm (), because the ending -nium has a similar pronunciation. It was the first element to be known in English in Vietnam.
  • Elements with the -on suffix (e.g. noble gases) seem to be inconsistent. Boron and silicon are respectively shortened to bo and silic. On the other hand, neon, argon, krypton, xenon and radon do not have common shorter forms.
  • Unlike the other halogens, astatine retains its suffix (astatin in Vietnamese).
  • Antimony is shortened to antimon, and arsenic to asen; these names are similar to the German ones (Antimon and Arsen, respectively).

Some elements have multiple names, for instance, potassium is known as pô-tát and kali (from kalium, the element's Latin name).

See also


  1. ^ a b (in Chinese). 2017-01-15 Missing or empty |title= (help)
  2. ^ It is worth noting that Nanjing Mandarin was the prestige dialect of Chinese until the late 19th century when most elements were named, and that 锡 and 硒 are not homophones in this dialect, since 锡 is an entering tone character while 硒 is level tone. (In Modern Standard Mandarin, based on the Beijing variety, the entering tone had merged with the other tones by the 17th century.)
  3. ^ "Chemical nouns -- overview of the names of chemical elements". Retrieved 17 July 2017.
  4. ^ "Unicode® 11.0.0". Retrieved 7 June 2018.
  5. ^ Wong, Kin-on James; Cheuk, Kwok-hung; Lei, Keng-lon; Leung, Ho-ming; Leung, Man-wai; Pang, Hei-tung; Pau, Chiu-wah; Tang, Kin-hung; Wai, Pui-wah; Fong, Wai-hung Raymond (1999). "English-Chinese Glossary of Terms Commonly Used in the Teaching of Chemistry in Secondary Schools" (PDF). Education Bureau. Hong Kong Education City Limited. Retrieved 29 January 2015.
  • Wright, David (2000). Translating Science: The Transmission of Western Chemistry into Late Imperial China, 1840–1900. Leiden; Boston: Brill. See especially Chapter Seven, "On Translation".

External links

Periodic tables


Chinese characters

Chinese characters (simplified Chinese: 汉字; traditional Chinese: 漢字; pinyin: hànzì; literally: 'Han characters') are logograms developed for the writing of Chinese. They have been adapted to write a number of other Asian languages. They remain a key component of the Japanese writing system (where they are known as kanji) and are occasionally used in the writing of Korean (where they are known as Hanja). They were formerly used in Vietnamese (in a system known as chữ Nôm) and Zhuang (in a system known as Sawndip). Collectively, they are known as CJK characters. Vietnamese is sometimes also included, making the abbreviation CJKV.

Chinese characters constitute the oldest continuously used system of writing in the world. By virtue of their widespread current use in East Asia, and historic use throughout the Sinosphere, Chinese characters are among the most widely adopted writing systems in the world by number of users.

Chinese characters number in the tens of thousands, though most of them are minor graphic variants encountered only in historical texts. Studies in China have shown that functional literacy in written Chinese requires a knowledge of between three and four thousand characters. In Japan, 2,136 are taught through secondary school (the Jōyō kanji); hundreds more are in everyday use. Due to post-WWII simplifications of Kanji in Japan as well as the post-WWII simplifications of characters in China, the Chinese characters used in Japan today are distinct from those used in China in several respects. There are various national standard lists of characters, forms, and pronunciations. Simplified forms of certain characters are used in mainland China, Singapore, and Malaysia; the corresponding traditional characters are used in Taiwan, Hong Kong, Macau, and to a limited extent in South Korea.

In Japan, common characters are written in post-WWII Japan-specific simplified forms (shinjitai), while uncommon characters are written in Japanese traditional forms (kyūjitai), which are virtually identical to Chinese traditional forms. In South Korea, when Chinese characters are used, they are in traditional form, essentially identical to those used in Taiwan and Hong Kong where the official writing system is traditional Chinese. Teaching of Chinese characters in South Korea starts in the 7th grade and continues until the 12th grade; a total of 1,800 characters are taught, though these characters are used only in certain cases (on names, signs, academic papers, historical writings, etc.) and are slowly declining in use as native alphabetical hangul supplanted them in most aspects of Korean society.

In Old Chinese including Classical Chinese, most words were monosyllabic and there was a close correspondence between characters and words. In modern Chinese, the majority of Chinese words today consist of two or more characters. Rather, a character almost always corresponds to a single syllable that is also a morpheme.

However, there are a few exceptions to this general correspondence, including bisyllabic morphemes (written with two characters), bimorphemic syllables (written with two characters) and cases where a single character represents a polysyllabic word or phrase.Modern Chinese has many homophones; thus the same spoken syllable may be represented by many characters, depending on meaning. A single character may also have a range of meanings, or sometimes quite distinct meanings; occasionally these correspond to different pronunciations. Cognates in the several varieties of Chinese are generally written with the same character. They typically have similar meanings, but often quite different pronunciations. In other languages, most significantly today in Japanese and sometimes in Korean, characters are used to represent Chinese loanwords, to represent native words independently of the Chinese pronunciation (e.g., kunyomi in Japanese), and as purely phonetic elements based on their pronunciation in the historical variety of Chinese from which they were acquired. These foreign adaptations of Chinese pronunciation are known as Sino-Xenic pronunciations and have been useful in the reconstruction of Middle Chinese.

Organic nomenclature in Chinese

The Chinese Chemical Society (CCS; simplified Chinese: 中国化学会; traditional Chinese: 中國化學會) lays out a set of rules based on those given by the International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry (IUPAC) for the purpose of systematic organic nomenclature in Chinese. The chemical names derived from these rules are meant to correspond with the English IUPAC name in a manner that is close to one-to-one, while being adapted to and taking advantage of the logographic nature of the Chinese written language. A standard set of characters invented during the 20th century (vide infra), along with characters for the chemical elements and characters corresponding to standard chemical prefixes and suffixes, are used for this purpose.

Outline of Korean language

The following outline is provided as an overview of and topical guide to Korean language:

우리 사이트에 오신 것을 환영합니다.Uli saiteue osin geos-eul hwan-yeonghabnida.Welcome to our site.

The Korean language is an East Asian language spoken by about 80 million people. It is a member of the Koreanic language family and is the official and national language of both Koreas: North Korea and South Korea, with different standardized official forms used in each country. It is also one of the two official languages in the Yanbian Korean Autonomous Prefecture and Changbai Korean Autonomous County of Jilin province, China. Historical and modern linguists classify Korean as a language isolate; however, it does have a few extinct relatives, which together with Korean itself and the Jeju language (spoken in the Jeju Province and considered somewhat distinct) form the Koreanic language family. This implies that Korean is not an isolate, but a member of a micro-family. The idea that Korean belongs to the controversial Altaic language family is discredited in academic research. Korean is agglutinative in its morphology and SOV in its syntax.

Korean language –

Symbol (chemistry)

In relation to the chemical elements, a symbol is a code for a chemical element. Symbols for chemical elements normally consist of one or two letters from the Latin alphabet and are written with the first letter capitalised. (Many functional groups have their own chemical symbol, e.g. Ph for the phenyl group, and Me for the methyl group.)

Earlier symbols for chemical elements stem from classical Latin and Greek vocabulary. For some elements, this is because the material was known in ancient times, while for others, the name is a more recent invention. For example, Pb is the symbol for lead (plumbum in Latin); Hg is the symbol for mercury (hydrargyrum in Greek); and He is the symbol for helium (a new Latin name) because helium was not known in ancient Roman times. Some symbols come from other sources, like W for tungsten (Wolfram in German) which was not known in Roman times.

A 3-letter temporary symbol may be assigned to a newly synthesized (or not-yet synthesized) element. For example, "Uno" was the temporary symbol for hassium (element 108) which had the temporary name of unniloctium, based on its atomic number being 8 greater than 100. There are also some historical symbols that are no longer officially used.

In addition to the letter(s) for the element itself, additional details may be added to the symbol as superscripts or subscripts a particular isotope, ionization or oxidation state, or other atomic detail. A few isotopes have their own specific symbols rather than just an isotopic detail added to their element symbol.

Attached subscripts or superscripts specifying a nuclide or molecule have the following meanings and positions:

The nucleon number (mass number) is shown in the left superscript position (e.g., 14N). This number defines the specific isotope. Various letters, such as "m" and "f" may also be used here to indicate a nuclear isomer (e.g., 99mTc). Alternately, the number here can represent a specific spin state (e.g., 1O2). These details can be omitted if not relevant in a certain context.

The proton number (atomic number) may be indicated in the left subscript position (e.g., 64Gd). The atomic number is redundant to the chemical element, but is sometimes used to emphasize the change of numbers of nucleons in a nuclear reaction.

If necessary, a state of ionization or an excited state may be indicated in the right superscript position (e.g., state of ionization Ca2+).

The number of atoms of an element in a molecule or chemical compound is shown in the right subscript position (e.g., N2 or Fe2O3). If this number is one, it is normally omitted - the number one is implicitly understood if unspecified.

A radical is indicated by a dot on the right side (e.g., Cl• for a neutral chlorine atom). This is often omitted unless relevant to a certain context because it is already deducible from the charge and atomic number, as generally true for nonbonded valence electrons in skeletal structures.In Chinese, each chemical element has a dedicated character, usually created for the purpose (see Chemical elements in East Asian languages). However, Latin symbols are also used, especially in formulas.

A list of current, dated, as well as proposed and historical signs and symbols is included here with its signification. Also given is each element's atomic number, atomic weight or the atomic mass of the most stable isotope, group and period numbers on the periodic table, and etymology of the symbol.

Hazard pictographs are another type of symbols used in chemistry.

Periodic table forms
Sets of elements
See also

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