The Chemical Symbols

Related Posts

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. Source: OpenStax Chemistry 2e

OpenStax Chemistry 2e

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. 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).

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).

Source: OpenStax Chemistry 2e

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.


Flowers, P., Theopold, K., Langley, R., & Robinson, W. R. (2019, February 14). Chemistry 2e. Houston, Texas: OpenStax. Access for free at:



Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.