Chemical symbol

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See also chemical formula.

A chemical symbol is an abbreviation or short representation of the name of a chemical element, generally assigned in relation to its Latin name. Natural elements all have symbols of one or two letters; some man-made elements have temporary symbols of three letters.

Chemical symbols are listed in the periodic table and are used as shorthand and in chemical equations, e.g.,

2H2 + O2 → 2H2O

Because chemical symbols are often derived from the Latin or Greek name of the element, they may not bear much similarity to the common Englis name, e.g., Na for sodium (Latin natrium) and Au for gold (Latin aurum).

In China, each chemical element is assigned an ideograph as its symbol; most of them have been explicitly created for this purpose.

Chemical symbols may also be changed to show if one particular isotope of an atom that is specified, as well as to show other attributes such as ionization and oxidation state of a chemical compound.

Examples of families

  • Alkali Metals
  • Alkaline Earth Metals
  • Transition Metals
  • Halogen Gases
  • Inert Gases (Noble Gases)

Examples of physical properties

  • Density
  • Boiling Point 212 degrees F
  • Melting Point
  • Conductivity
  • Heat Capacity

Examples of chemical properties:

  • Valence
  • Reactivity
  • Radioactivity

For complete listings of the chemical elements and their symbols, see:

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