IUPAC systematic nomenclature - Elementymology & Elements Multidict

Elementymology & Elements Multidict

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IUPAC systematic nomenclature of superheavy elements

The systematic names for the new discovered elements are derived from their atomic numbers. Each digit is converted into a word based on Latin and Greek words for the number, at the end a suffix is added.

digit & syllablederivationRussianother variants
0 = nilLatin nihil = nothingнил
1 = unLatin unus = oneунūn Latvian
2 = biLatin bis = two as adverbби
3 = triLatin tres = threeтриterc Croatian§
4 = quadLatin quattuor = fourквадkvad Croatian, Esperanto, Latvian
cuad Spanish (also quad)
5 = pentGreek pente = fiveпент
6 = hexGreek ex = sixхексheks Croatian, Latvian, Norwegian
7 = septLatin septem = sevenсепт
8 = octLatin octo = eightоктokt Croatian, Latvian
9 = en*Greek ennea = nine...ен
Suffix = -ium**usual for elements-ий-io Italian, Portuguese, Spanish
-иjум Serbian
-ij Croatian
-ijs Latvian

* if necessary, a "n" may be added.
** after bi and tri the suffix is -um, -й, etc.
§ in the Croatian periodic table element 113 is given as ununtercij

Example element 116: 1 + 1 + 6 = un + un + hex + ium = ununhexium, symbol Uuh; element 130 will be untrinilium, symbol Utn.

Naming the transfermium elements

The Transfermium Working Group was established in 1986 by the International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry (IUPAC) and the International Union of Pure and Applied Physics (IUPAP). The working group published several reports, and then recommended that elements should not be named after living persons. This greatly upset the USA - who wanted to name an element after Glenn T. Seaborg. In 1994 a IUPAC recommendation was made (names marked (1) in the table below). As a result of the criticisms on these names, the commission reconsidered the names at a meeting in August 1996.

"After some discussion CNIC [= IUPAC Commission on Nomenclature in Inorganic Chemistry] agreed that elements 101, 102 and 103 should retain their commonly accepted names mendelevium, nobelium, and lawrencium. This is despite the fact that the original Swedish claim to have prepared element 102 was subsequently shown to have been in error by the Dubna laboratory, which finally achieved an undisputed synthesis. The adjudicate on competing claims for priority of discovery.

The Commission hopes that the present collection of names will be accepted as a fair compromise between the various claims and suggestions. It recognizes important experimental and theoretical contributions to the discovery of new elements and also the international discovery of element 106 by the Berkeley laboratory is uncontested and the name proposed by the discoverers, seaborgium, was accepted.

The discoveries of elements 107 jointly by the Darmstadt and Dubna laboratories), and of 108 and 109 (by the Darmstadt laboratories) are also uncontested. The discoverers wished to call these nielsbohrium, hassium, and meitnerium, respectively, and the Commission accepted the last two. However, the proposal for 107 was the subject of vigorous debate. The name nielsbohrium is long and includes the first name of Niels Bohr as well as his family name. Such an element name is without precedent. Finally it was decided to refer the matter to the Danish NAO [= National Adhering Organization]. Its preference for bohrium rather than nielsbohrium was ultimately accepted.

The discoveries of elements 104 and 105 are contested by Dubna and Berkeley. Both laboratories appear to have made significant contributions, but what has clearly emerged from the submissions, including those from Berkeley and from Darmstadt, is that the Dubna laboratory has played a key role in developing the experimental strategies used in synthesizing several transfermium elements. The Commission recommended that element 105 should be named dubnium in its honour. The Berkeley laboratory has already been similarly recognized on more than one occasion. Finally, the Commission accepted the name rutherfordium for element 104, to honour the New Zealand nuclear physicist, Ernest Rutherford." (note)

Names of the transfermium elements
No.syst. IUPAC (5)IUPAC 1997/IUPAP 1999proposals
101Unu UnniluniumMd Mendelevium (2, 5) 
102Unb UnnilbiumNo Nobelium (2, 5) 
103Unt UnniltriumLr Lawrencium (2, 5) 
104Unq UnnilquadiumRf Rutherfordium (2)Ku Kurchatovium (3)
Db Dubnium (1)
105Unp UnnilpentiumDb DubniumHa Hahnium (2)
Jo Joliotium (1)
Ns Nielsbohrium (3)
106Unh UnnilhexiumSg Seaborgium (2)Rf Rutherfordium (1)
107Uns UnnilseptiumBh Bohrium (1)Ns Nielsbohrium (2, 4)
108Uno UnniloctiumHs Hassium (2, 4)Ha Hahnium (1)
109Une UnnileniumMt Meitnerium (2, 4) 

(1) IUPAC 1994 recommendations (on-line PDF).
(2) American Chemical Society 1994 Proposal.
(3) Proposal by the ќбъединенный »нститут ядерных »сследований (ќ»я») - Joint Institute for Nuclear Research (JINR) at ƒубна (Dubna), Russia.
(4) Proposal (1992) by Gesellschaft für Schwerionenforschung (GSI) in Darmstadt, Germany.
(5) Commission on the Nomenclature of Inorganic Chemistry, Recommendations for the Naming of Elements of Atomic Numbers Greater than 100 (Rules Approved 1978). (on-line)
This compromise selection of names was ratified by the IUPAC Council meeting in Geneva during August 1997. The identical list of names was recommended by IUPAP's C2 Commission on Symbols, Units, Nomenclature, Atomic Masses and Constants (SUNAMCO) in its report to the 1999 General Assembly for 1996-99 (note). A joint IUPAP/IUPAC Committee has been set up to consider the discovery of elements 110-112.

Further reading:


© Peter van der Krogt