83. Bisemutum (Bismuth) - Elementymology & Elements Multidict

Elementymology & Elements Multidict

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Bisemutum Bismuth
Bismut – Wismut – Bismuth – Bismuto – コスマス – Висмут – 鉍
Multilingual dictionary

Bisemutum Latin

— Germanic
Bismut Afrikaans
Bismuth, Vismuth Danish
Wismut German
Bismuth English
Vismut Faroese
Bismut Frisian (West)
Bismút Icelandic
Wismut Luxembourgish
Bismut Dutch
Vismut Norwegian
Vismut Swedish

— Italic
Bismuto Aragonese
Bizmuth Aromanian
Bismutu Asturian
Bismut Catalan
Bismuto Spanish
Bismuth French
Bismut Friulian
Bismuto Galician
Bismuto Italian
Bismüt Lombard
Bismut Occitan
Bismuto Portuguese
Bismut Romanian - Moldovan

— Slavic
Бисмут [Bismut] Bulgarian
Bizmut Bosnian
Вісмут [vismut] Belarusian
Bismut Czech
Bizmut Croatian
Bizmùt Kashubian
Висмут [Vismut] Macedonian
Bizmut Polish
Висмут [Vismut] Russian
Bismut Slovak
Bizmut Slovenian
Бизмут [Bizmut] Serbian
Вісмут [vismut] Ukrainian

— Baltic
Bismutas Lithuanian
Bismuts Latvian
Bėsmots Samogitian

— Celtic
Bismut Breton
Bismwth Welsh
Biosmat Gaelic (Irish)
Biosmat Gaelic (Scottish)
Bismut Gaelic (Manx)
Bysmuth Cornish

— Other Indo-European
Βισμουθιο [vismouthio] Greek
Բիսմութ [bismut'] Armenian
Bizmut[i] Albanian

— Indo-Iranian/Iranian
Bîzmût Kurdish
Висмут [vismut] Ossetian
Висмут [Vismut] Tajik

— Indo-Iranian/Indo-Aryan
বিসমাথ [bisamātha] Bengali
بیسموت [bysmwt] Persian
બિસ્મથનો [bismathano] Gujarati
बिस्मथ [bismatha] Hindi

Vismut Estonian
Vismutti Finnish
Bizmut Hungarian
Висмут [Vismut] Komi
Висмут [Vismut] Mari
Висмут [vismut] Moksha
Vismut Võro

Bismut Azerbaijani
Висмут [Vismut] Chuvash
Висмут [vismût] Kazakh
Висмут [Vismut] Kyrgyz
Висмут [bismut] Mongolian
Bizmut Turkish
ۋىسمۇت [wismut] Uyghur
Vismut Uzbek

Other (Europe)
Bismutoa Basque
ბისმუტი [bismuti] Georgian

بزموث [bizmūt] Arabic
ביסמות [bismuth] Hebrew
Biżmut, ²Bismut Maltese

Pit (鉍) Hakka
コスマス [bisumusu] Japanese
비스무트 [biseumuteu] Korean
บิสมัท [bismath] Thai
Bitmut, Bismut Vietnamese
[bi4 / bei3] Chinese

Bismuto Cebuano
Bismut Indonesian
Bismuth Māori
Bismut Malay

Other Asiatic
ബിസ്മത് [bismat] Malayalam
பிஸ்மத் [pismat] Tamil

Bisemu Lingala
Bismute Sesotho
Bismuthi Swahili

Bismuto Nahuatl

Wismutu, ²Bismutu Quechua

Bismuti Sranan Tongo

Bismuto Esperanto

New names
Bismuton Atomic Elements
Pinkertin Dorseyville
memory peg

Pinkish hued metal which forms beautiful crystals when pure
melting point 271 °C; 520 °F
boiling point 1560 °C; 2840 °F
density 9.75 g/cc; 608.48 pounds/cubic foot
1753 Claude-François Geoffroy, France
Weisse Masse = white substance (German)
name used since the 15th century

History & Etymology

Bismuth was probably unknown to the ancients. The first time it is mentioned is in the 15th century. In 1450 Basileus Valentinus (1565-1624) referred to it by the name wismut, and characterized it as a metal; some years later Paracelsus termed it wissmat, and, in allusion to its brittle nature, affirmed it to be a "bastard" or "half-metal". The first clear description of Bismuth as a separate metal is from Georgius Agricola (1494-1555), De natura fossilium Libri X (1546) (note). Agricola described it as an "ashgrey lead", unknown to the ancient Greeks and Latins. It is a separate metal, different from lead and tin, but similar to them. It is brittle and harder than tin and lead. The density is between tin and lead. The luster of a polished surface is between that of tin and lead. Bismuth is mined at Schneeberg, Erzgebirge, Sachsen, Germany. Agricola used the form wissmuth, latinized to bisemutum, and also the term plumbum cineareum.

There exist also a document from 1477 on a Bismuth mine at Schneeberg, this means that the name was already known and was apparently not uncommon in this area. Alchemy held that one metal could be transformed to another. Miners believed there were three types of Lead: Ordinary, Tin, and Bismuth. Silver was often found in ore below Bismuth. So they believed that Bismuth had progressed farthest but not completed its transmutation to Silver. Striking a vein of Bismuth, miners would say sadly, "Alas, we have come too soon."

Edmund von Lippmann, in his book on the history of Bismuth (note), encountered in the literature from the 15th to the 17th century 21 names for the metal. In Cadet's Dictionnaire de Chimie of 1803 (note) Bismuth and some of its compounds are described in detail and given many synonym names: Demogorgon, Glaure, Nimphe, Étain de glace, and Étain gris (gray tin).

In early times Bismuth was confused with Antimony, Tin and Lead. Only in the middle of the 18th century, through the research of Claude-François Geoffroy dit Geoffroy cadet (1729-1753) (note), who described his observations in appeared in the Mémoires de lacadémie française for 1753, His early death prevented further research on Bismuth. Johann Heinrich Pott (16921777), published in his Exercitationes chemicae de Wismutho (1769), and Torbern Olof Bergman (1735-1784) reinvestigated Bismuth's properties and determined its reactions. Bergman's account was published in his Opuscula. By the work of Bergman, Bismuth was definitely recognized as a specific metal.

A--Little iron pans. B--The wood fire. C--Smelted bismuth ('Wyssmet') being skimmed in the pan. From Lazarus Ercker's Beschreibung allerfürnemisten mineralischen Ertzt vnnd Bergkwercks arten (1598 edition).

From University of Pennsylvania Library, Schoenberg Center for Electronic Text & Image

Von Lippmann explains the name as derived from the German Weisse Masse = white material, which later altered to Wismuth and Bisemutum.

Often is the name Bismuth explained as a derivation from the German, from the saying that one the element "in der Wiese mute" (applied for mineral rights in the meadow). According to Thomas Witzke, the derivation of the element name from "in der Wiese muten" is unlikely. The term is difficult to translate. "Wiese" is meadow, and "muten" means an announcement to mine for special ores or metals. The owner of the mine must announce to the mining authorities the ores or metals that he wants to mine before starting his work.
An origin of the name in the Erzgebirge area, especially at Schneeberg, is very likely. All the early documents on Bismuth refer to Schneeberg. The mining at Schneeberg started between 1400 and 1450. Schneeberg was founded as a result of the Silver findings at this time. Main parts of the Erzgebirge were primeval forest, and meadows were not a characteritic features at this time in this area. Main clearings of the forests were a result of the growing population due to the mining. Bismuth was found at Schneeberg in several mines in large quantities (in difference to other mining areas in Germany!), but the need of Bismuth was rather low - a small quantity for medical use and somewhat for the types for book printing. In all the early documents, there is only one Bismuth mine mentioned. Typical announcements were for Silver, somewhat later also for Cobalt ores, but not for Bismuth. With increasing book printing, the use of Bismuth grows, but at this time the name was already known.
All in all, a derivation from "in der Wiese muten" sounds nice, but is rather unlikely. Neither meadows were characteristic for the beginning of the mining in this area, nor "muten" for Bismuth is likely or were of greater economic interest at the time of the origin of the name.

Other suggestions for the origin of the word Bismuth are

  • a derivation from the Arab "bi ismid" = having the properties of Antimony [al-ithmīd] (Мир Химии and Musée de minéralogie);
  • a derivation from the Greek "psimydos" = white lead (in French blanc d'argent), one of the oldest paint pigments (basic lead carbonate, a mixture of lead carbonate and lead hydroxide, (PbCO3)2 Pb(OH)2). However, the word "psimydos" does not exist, the correct Greek word for white lead is ψιμυθιον (psimythion) (Musée de minéralogie in Paris);
  • after the name of the German region (the transliteration is Vizen, maybe Wiesen, I don't know which region is meant) ( ).

Historical names of Bismuth isotopes
Name & Symbol (hist. and modern) First described Notes
Radium-C Ra C 214Bi 1904 Rutherford  
Thorium-C Th C 212Bi 1904 Rutherford  
Actinium-C Ac C 211Bi 1904 Brooks & Rutherford  
Radium-E Ra E 210Bi 1905 Rutherford  

Chemistianity 1873
BISMUTH, a metalloid named by Artist "Tin Glass,"
Has pinkish-white colour, is of medium hardness,
Brittle, very fusible, and, in Air, oxides;
It melts at black heat, and vapours at white heat.
J. Carrington Sellars, Chemistianity, 1873, p. 107
Further reading
  • Mary Elvira Weeks, Discovery of the Elements, comp. rev. by Heny M. Leicester (Easton, Pa.: Journal of Chemical Education, 1968), pp. 103-110.
  • Edmund O. von Lippmann, Die Geschichte des Wismuts zwischen 1400 und 1800: ein Beitrag zur Geschichte der Technologie und der Kultur. Berlin: Springer, 1930.

Sources Index of Persons Index of Alleged Elements