19. Kalium (Potassium) - Elementymology & Elements Multidict

Elementymology & Elements Multidict

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Kalium Potassium
Kalium – Kalium – Potassium – Potasio – カリウム – Калий – 鉀
Multilingual dictionary

Kalium Latin

— Germanic
Kalium Afrikaans
Kalium Danish
Kalium German
Potassium English
Kalium Faroese
Kalium Frisian (West)
Kalín Icelandic
Kalium Luxembourgish
Kalium Dutch
Kalium Norwegian
Kalium Swedish

— Italic
Potasio Aragonese
Caliumu Aromanian
Potasiu Asturian
Potassi Catalan
Potasio Spanish
Potassium French
Potassi Friulian
Potasio Galician
Potassio Italian
Putàss Lombard
Potassi Occitan
Potássio Portuguese
Potasiu, ²Kaliu Romanian - Moldovan

— Slavic
Калий [Kalij] Bulgarian
Kalij[um] Bosnian
Калій [kalij] Belarusian
Draslík Czech
Kalij Croatian
Kali Kashubian
Калиум [Kalium] Macedonian
Potas Polish
Калий [Kalij] Russian
Draslík Slovak
Kalij Slovenian
Калијум [Kalijum] Serbian
Калій [kalij] Ukrainian

— Baltic
Kalis Lithuanian
Kālijs Latvian
Kalis Samogitian

— Celtic
Potasiom Breton
Potasiwm Welsh
Potaisiam Gaelic (Irish)
Potaisiam Gaelic (Scottish)
Potashum Gaelic (Manx)
Calyum Cornish

— Other Indo-European
Καλιο [kalio] Greek
Կալիում [kalium] Armenian
Kalium[i] Albanian

— Indo-Iranian/Iranian
Qelye Kurdish
Калий [kalij] Ossetian
Калий [Kali'] Tajik

— Indo-Iranian/Indo-Aryan
পটাসিয়াম [paṭāsiẏāma] Bengali
پتاسیم [ptasym] Persian
પોટૅશિયમનો [poṭṡiyamano] Gujarati
पोटैशियम [poṭaiśiyama] Hindi

Kaalium Estonian
Kalium Finnish
Kálium Hungarian
Калий [Kalij] Komi
Калий [Kalij] Mari
Кали [kali] Moksha
Kaalium Võro

Kalium Azerbaijani
Кали [Kali] Chuvash
Калий [kalij] Kazakh
Калий [Kalij] Kyrgyz
Кали [kali] Mongolian
Potasyum Turkish
كالىي [kaliy] Uyghur
Kaliy Uzbek

Other (Europe)
Potasioa Basque
კალიუმი [kaliumi] Georgian

بوتاسيوم [būtāsiyūm] Arabic
אשלגן [ashlagan] Hebrew
Potassju[m] Maltese

Kap (鉀) Hakka
カリウム [kariumu] Japanese
칼륨, 2포타슘 [kallyum, potasyum] Korean
โพแทสเซียม [phōthaetsiam] Thai
Kali Vietnamese
[jia3 / gaap8] Chinese

Potasio Cebuano
Kalium Indonesian
Konurehu Māori
Kalium Malay

Other Asiatic
പൊട്ടാസ്യം [poṭṭāsyam] Malayalam
பொட்டாசியம் [poţţāciyam] Tamil

Potasu Lingala
Potassiamo Sesotho
Kali Swahili

Potasio Nahuatl

Kalyu Quechua

Kalimi Sranan Tongo

Kalio Esperanto

New names
Potasion Atomic Elements
Gunpowderonium Dorseyville
memory peg

A shiny metal with a very slight purple hue to it caused by oxidation. Upon exposure to the atmosphere, it quickly forms a gray/yellow coating of oxide/peroxide
melting point 64 °C; 147 °F
boiling point 774 °C; 1425 °F
density 0.86 g/cc; 53.81 pounds/cubic foot
1807 Sir Humphry Davy, England
al-qali = ashes (Arabic)
Named Potassium by Davy in 1807 and Kalium in 1809 by Gilbert

History & Etymology

Potash (Neolatin potassa, Potassium carbonate, K2CO3) was obtained from the ashes of plant material. The ashes was leached and the solution was evaporated to dryness, an operation at one time carried out in iron pots: hence the name from "pot" and "ashes." The English term appears for the first time in 1648, and is a loan-translation of Dutch potaschen.
From antiquity to the Middle Ages no difference was made between potash and soda (Sodium carbonate, Na2CO3), both were named by the Arabs Alkali. This word was derived from قِلْو qalay, "to fry or roast in a pan". Al-qali is "the substance that had been roasted" or "ashes of the plant saltwort. In Europe, both substances were named natron.

Martin Heinrich Klaproth, in his paper for the Royal Academy of Berlin of 26 January 1797, was the first to distinguish the both alkalis: he suggested the name kali for vegetable alkali and natron for mineral alkali (see Sodium / Natrium.)

Potassium or Kalium?

Metallic potassium was first obtained by Sir Humphry Davy, in 1807. In the Bakerian lecture at the Royal Society of London on 19 November 1807 he made this discovery public (note):

(see further at Sodium / Natrium.).

Gay-Lussac and Thénard, who too investigated the alkalis, named the metals initially métal de potasse and métal de soude, and later also Potassium and Sodium.

The results of Davy's research were made public in German by Ludwig Wilhelm Gilbert in his Annalen der Physik of 1809 (vol. 31). Many articles were translated by Gilbert himself, he calls his work a "free translation" since he added his own comments. I have not seen Gilbert's translation of Davy's article yet, since vol. 31 (vol. 1 of the new series) is not available in the Bibliotheca Gallica. However, a note in a translation of a later article by Davy (note) makes clear what Gilbert's idea of a translation was:

Translation: The reader will remember from these Annalen that Davy named these bodies Potassium, which I replaced by Kalium, just as Davy's name for the Natron-Metal, Sodium, is represented by Natronium, in agreement with the German nomenclature. These names I will use throughout this article.

Gilbert obviously followed the 1797 proposal by Klaproth.
In 1808 Gehlen suggested Kalin(um) and Natrin or Natrinmetall.

In 1813 Berzelius published in a British journal, Thomas Thomson's Annals of Philosophy, his system of atomic symbols as one- or two-letter abbreviations of Latin names for the elements. In this first paper he followed the British discoverer Davy nomenclature and abbreviated Potassium and Sodium as Po and So. But within a year Berzelius decided in favor of Kalium and Natrium.

Despite this, as the list of names in different languages to the left shows, the English and French speaking countries followed Davy and Gay-Lussac/Thénard with Sodium and Potassium, and the Germanic countries adopted Gilbert/Klaproth's names Natrium and Kalium.

Alternative names
  • The Czech draslík derives from draslo = potash.
  • The Hebrew אשלגן [ashlagan] derives from the word "Ashlag" that is mentioned in the Talmud. The source could be for a potassium based salt.
Sir Humphry Davy

Statue of Sir Humphry Davy in his birth place, Penzance, Cornwall, England.
Photo by Peter van der Krogt, 20 July 2004.

On a sign on the pedestal the following text is written:

Sir Humphry Davy
The most famous son of Penzance was one of the leading scientists of the 19th century - Sir Humphry Davy.
Davy was born in Penzance in 1778 the son of a woodcarver. At the age of 16 he was apprenticed to a local doctor and became interested in chemistry. In 1798 he left to work in a medical laboratory in Bristol. There he discovered the pain relieving effects of laughing gas (nitrous oxide) and suggested its anaesthetic use.
By the age of 24 Davy was a professor of chemistry at the Royal Institution. He founded the science of electro-chemistry and discovered six new elements including potassium and sodium [and boron, magnesium, calcium, and barium]. He became famous and was honoured throughout Europe.
Davy is remembered now for his work on the miners safety lamp which bears his name, but perhaps his greatest contribution to science was the encouragement he gave to the young Michael Faraday.
Davy kept in touch with his roots and supported the Royal Geological Society in Penzance and left money to his old school. He died in 1829.
This statue was erected in 1872 and was produced by the sculptors Wills of London and is of white marble.

Chemistianity 1873
POTASSIUM, the Plant's tonic metal,
Call'd Kalium, of silver-white colour;
Oxides when exposed to dry Air, producing
Potassium Monoxide; thrown in water
It instantly fires ! forming the Hydroxide.
It can be viewed only through clear liquids
Which do not contain its friend Oxygen:
It cuts soft with knife at common temp'ratures.
J. Carrington Sellars, Chemistianity, 1873, p. 114
Further reading
  • Mary Elvira Weeks, Discovery of the Elements, comp. rev. by Henry M. Leicester (Easton, Pa.: Journal of Chemical Education, 1968), pp. 433-457.

Sources Index of Persons Index of Alleged Elements