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Chemical symbols

A chemical symbol    is an abbreviation that we use to indicate an element or an atom of an element. For example, the symbol for mercury is Hg ( [link] ). We use the same symbol to indicate one atom of mercury (microscopic domain) or to label a container of many atoms of the element mercury (macroscopic domain).

A jar labeled “H g” is shown with a small amount of liquid mercury in it.
The symbol Hg represents the element mercury regardless of the amount; it could represent one atom of mercury or a large amount of mercury.

The symbols for several common elements and their atoms are listed in [link] . Some symbols are derived from the common name of the element; others are abbreviations of the name in another language. Most symbols have one or two letters, but three-letter symbols have been used to describe some elements that have atomic numbers greater than 112. To avoid confusion with other notations, only the first letter of a symbol is capitalized. For example, Co is the symbol for the element cobalt, but CO is the notation for the compound carbon monoxide, which contains atoms of the elements carbon (C) and oxygen (O). All known elements and their symbols are in the periodic table in [link] (also found in [link] ).

Some Common Elements and Their Symbols
Element Symbol Element Symbol
aluminum Al iron Fe (from ferrum )
bromine Br lead Pb (from plumbum )
calcium Ca magnesium Mg
carbon C mercury Hg (from hydrargyrum )
chlorine Cl nitrogen N
chromium Cr oxygen O
cobalt Co potassium K (from kalium )
copper Cu (from cuprum ) silicon Si
fluorine F silver Ag (from argentum )
gold Au (from aurum ) sodium Na (from natrium )
helium He sulfur S
hydrogen H tin Sn (from stannum )
iodine I zinc Zn

Traditionally, the discoverer (or discoverers) of a new element names the element. However, until the name is recognized by the International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry (IUPAC), the recommended name of the new element is based on the Latin word(s) for its atomic number. For example, element 106 was called unnilhexium (Unh), element 107 was called unnilseptium (Uns), and element 108 was called unniloctium (Uno) for several years. These elements are now named after scientists (or occasionally locations); for example, element 106 is now known as seaborgium (Sg) in honor of Glenn Seaborg, a Nobel Prize winner who was active in the discovery of several heavy elements.


The symbol for a specific isotope of any element is written by placing the mass number as a superscript to the left of the element symbol ( [link] ). The atomic number is sometimes written as a subscript preceding the symbol, but since this number defines the element’s identity, as does its symbol, it is often omitted. For example, magnesium exists as a mixture of three isotopes, each with an atomic number of 12 and with mass numbers of 24, 25, and 26, respectively. These isotopes can be identified as 24 Mg, 25 Mg, and 26 Mg. These isotope symbols are read as “element, mass number” and can be symbolized consistent with this reading. For instance, 24 Mg is read as “magnesium 24,” and can be written as “magnesium-24” or “Mg-24.” 25 Mg is read as “magnesium 25,” and can be written as “magnesium-25” or “Mg-25.” All magnesium atoms have 12 protons in their nucleus. They differ only because a 24 Mg atom has 12 neutrons in its nucleus, a 25 Mg atom has 13 neutrons, and a 26 Mg has 14 neutrons.

Questions & Answers

what is chemistry?
Archie Reply
forms of biotechnology
Ocheme Reply
What is a mole?
Henry Reply
pls give me 3 type of transition metal
Destiny Reply
Copper, Scandium, Vanadium, Iron, Chromium, Cobalt
ion zinc hydrogen
that is not true
stop posting foolishness
how do I name compounds
Stanley Reply
depends on the compound. as you may know there's transition metal compounds and there's organic compounds and so on and so forth.
what is electricity
Lorrita Reply
electricity refers to the flow electrons
Hi. please can you tell me more on chemical equation
Gift Reply
When 1 or 2 chemicals react, they rearrange their atomic composition forming new compounds. The total mass before and after is the same/ constant. Chemical equations of same reactants react in same ratios e.g. 1 Na ion reacts with 1 water molecule or a multipier like 1 mole of Na ions react with 1
Mole of water molecules. In that example we multipied by 6.02*10^23 or avogadro constant (L). Or 2 Na+ ions with two water molecules. The arrow means '' to form '' Some times conditions or reactants are written above the arrow like H+ or enzyme or temper, sometimes physical states are written
Beside the chemical Aqueous (aq) which means solute dissolved on water. Solid (s) etc Some chemical equations are written next to it ΔH= # which means enthalpy change which describes if the reaction is endothermic (+) or exothermic (-).
Some are reversible and have half double arrow sign.
what is the meaning of atoma
Ibrahim Reply
what is theory
Michael Reply
what is chemical compound
A compound is the result of chemical bonding between 2 or more different elements.
Why is an atom electrically neutral?
the same number of electron , proton present in an atom.thats why it is electrically neutral
difference between Amine and amide
Amadu Reply
what is the difference between alkanal and alkanone
difference between alkanol and alkanal
you are not well at all
is organic compounds used for drying agent
Olawale Reply
Sulfuric acid is used as a drying agent.
what is an atom
John Reply
An atom is the smallest part of an element, for instance gold atoms are the smallest part of gold that can enter a reaction. An atom must consist protons and electrons of equal number. You can think of those subatomic particles as spheres, but not orbiting randomly they move in specific way in
That was partially described mathematically. As a muslim, we believe that god created all matter from nothing. He is the Able, and only who can create matter in the begging in the big bang that was described in the Quran in chapter 17 verse 30, 1400 years ago, you can read it from internet.
what is electron affinity
do you have a private jet
what is acid
Olubodun Reply
Proton donor (H+). Like in lemons, oranges and some medicines.
what is titration? and how can i get my readings?
favor Reply
what is electrolysis?
favor Reply
what is the formula you use when calculating for gas law?
electro-means electricity while lysis-means splitting up so electrolysis simply means splitting up by means of electric current
good day. how may I see previous question asked in this chat, please?
Asha, A person named Favor asked what is meant by the term electrolysis

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Source:  OpenStax, Chemistry. OpenStax CNX. May 20, 2015 Download for free at http://legacy.cnx.org/content/col11760/1.9
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