How Are the Names of Elements on the Periodic Table Chosen?

Choosing permanent names for elements added to the periodic table is not as complicated as some people believe. Although various trends prevailed in times past, including using forms of Greek names, there are only a few basic guidelines that are observed today. The name for a new element cannot be something that was considered for a different element in the past. All proposed names must end with “ium.” As a final guideline, a new element should not be named after a person who is still alive. At various times, one or more of these guidelines have been disregarded by the discoverers of a new element.

More facts about elements in the periodic table:

  • The letter “J” is not found anywhere in the periodic table. Not only is that letter not used in any atomic symbol, none of the elements in the periodic table even contain a "J" anywhere in their name.

  • During the 1990s, there was considerable debate over naming Element 106 seaborgium, after American chemist Glenn T. Seaborg. The debate had to do with the fact that Seaborg was still alive at the time. Proponents noted there was a precedent, because einsteinium was given its name when Albert Einstein was still alive.

  • Eleven of the 14 elements discovered since the 1950s have been named after scientists, most of whom were deceased at the time the elements were officially assigned their names. This practice has superseded using Greek terms as part of element names or utilizing the name of a country, river or other geographical location as the root source for the name.

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