Frequently Asked Questions About the Periodic Table.
What does “Periodic” mean in the periodic table?
Elements in a period have the same number of atomic orbitals. For example, every element in the top row (the first period) has one orbital for its electrons. All of the elements in the second row (the second period) have two orbitals for their electrons.
Chemical elements are grouped into periods (rows), ordered by their atomic number, which have the same number of atomic orbitals. For example all the elements in the top row (period) has one orbital of its electrons. All the elements in the second row (second period) have two orbitals for their electrons, as so on for the other periods. The first element in each row has just one electron in its outer shell which means it is unstable and the most reactive. The last element in each row has a full shell of electrons so these elements are the least reactive and most stable. Elements which share similar properties are called congeners and (by skipping columns) are grouped together as follows:
- 7 rows: Each row represents a period and includes chemical elements ordered by the number of protons in their nucleus.
- 18 columns: Columns are used to group together chemical elements which share similar properties.
Why do some elements have names which do not match its symbol?
Most of the abbreviations for elements are derived from Latin. Here’s a list of chemical elements with symbols which do NOT match their names with explanations:
- Antimony (Sb)
The symbol Sb for Antimony is taken from Latin
stíbi which means
eye paint because antimony was used in eye cosmetics.
- Copper (Cu)
The symbol Cu for Copper is taken from Latin
Cuprum a contraction of
Cyprian metal from Cyprus which was famous for copper.
- Gold (Au)
The symbol Au for Gold is taken from Latin
aurum (yellow) and from
- Iron (Fe)
The symbol Fe for Iron is taken from Latin
errum which means iron or sword.
- Lead (Pb)
The symbol Pb for Lead is taken from Latin
plumbum probably derived from an earlier language than Greek.
- Mercury (Hg)
The symbol Hg for Mercury is taken from Greek
hydrargyros (liquid silver or quicksilver in English) resulting in
hydrargyrum. Alchemists believed hydrargyrum was close to gold so named it after the planet closest to the Sun, which is Mercury.
- Potassium (K)
The symbol K for Potassium is taken from Latin
- Silver (Ag)
The symbol Ag for Silver is taken from Latin
argentum probably derived from an Indo-European word for shiny metal. Argentina is the only country named after a chemical element.
- Sodium (Na)
The symbol Na for Sodium is taken from Latin
nítron and earlier Arabic
- Tin (Sn)
The symbol Sn for Tin is taken from latin
stannum probably derived from the Indo-European word
stag (dripping) because tin is easily melted.
- Tungsten (W)
The symbol W for Tungsten refers to
Wolfram the mineral found in wolframite, from the German
wolf rahm/wolf’s foam – the amount of tin consumed to extract Tungsten.
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