29. Cuprum (Copper) - Elementymology & Elements Multidict

Elementymology & Elements Multidict

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Cuprum Copper
Koper – Kupfer – Cuivre – Cobre – 銅 – Медь – 銅
Multilingual dictionary

Cuprum Latin

— Germanic
Koper Afrikaans
Kobber Danish
Kupfer German
Copper English
Kopar Faroese
Koper Frisian (West)
Kopar, ²Eir Icelandic
Koffer Luxembourgish
Koper Dutch
Kobber (Bokmål), Kopar (Nynorsk) Norwegian
Koppar Swedish

— Italic
Arambre Aragonese
Halcumã Aromanian
Cobre Asturian
Coure Catalan
Cobre Spanish
Cuivre French
Ram Friulian
Cobre Galician
Rame Italian
Raam Lombard
Coire Occitan
Cobre Portuguese
Cupru Romanian - Moldovan

— Slavic
Мед [Med] Bulgarian
Bakar Bosnian
Медзь [medz'] Belarusian
Měď Czech
Bakar Croatian
Kòper Kashubian
Бакар [Bakar] Macedonian
Miedź Polish
Медь [Med'] Russian
Meď Slovak
Baker Slovenian
Бакар [Bakar] Serbian
Мідь [mid'] Ukrainian

— Baltic
Varis Lithuanian
Varš Latvian
Varis Samogitian

— Celtic
Kouevr Breton
Copor Welsh
Copar Gaelic (Irish)
Copar Gaelic (Scottish)
Cobbyr Gaelic (Manx)
Cober Cornish

— Other Indo-European
Χαλκος [chalkos] Greek
Պղինձ [pghindz] Armenian
Bakër, ²Bakri Albanian

— Indo-Iranian/Iranian
Sifir Kurdish
Æрхуы [ærhuy] Ossetian
Мис [Mis] Tajik

— Indo-Iranian/Indo-Aryan
কপার [kapāra] Bengali
مس [ms] Persian
તાંબુ [tā'bu] Gujarati
ताम्र [tāmra] Hindi

Vask Estonian
Kupari Finnish
Réz Hungarian
Ыргӧн [Yrgön] Komi
Вӱргене [Vürgene] Mari
Серае, Сере [serae, sere] Moksha
Vask Võro

Mis Azerbaijani
Пăхăр [Păhăr] Chuvash
Мыс [mys] Kazakh
Жез [Žez] Kyrgyz
Зэс [zès] Mongolian
Bakır Turkish
مىس [mis] Uyghur
Mis Uzbek

Other (Europe)
Kobrea Basque
სპილენძი [spilenżi] Georgian

نحاس [nuHās] Arabic
נחושת [nahoshet] Hebrew
Ram, ²Ramm Maltese

Thùng Hakka
[dou] Japanese
구리 [guri] Korean
ทองแดง [thongdaeng] Thai
Đồng Vietnamese
[tong2 / tung4] Chinese

Kobre Cebuano
Tembaga Indonesian
Konukura Māori
Tembaga Malay

Other Asiatic
ചെമ്പ് [cemp] Malayalam
செப்பு [ceppu] Tamil

Mbengi Lingala
Koporo Sesotho
Kupri, ²Nahasi Swahili

Chīchīltic tepoztli Nahuatl

Anta Quechua

Kupru Sranan Tongo

Kupro Esperanto

New names
Copre Atomic Elements
Branzes Dorseyville
memory peg

Reddish brown metal which oxidizes to form a green oxide
melting point 1083 °C; 1982 °F
boiling point 2567 °C; 4653 °F
density 8.96 g/cc; 559.35 pounds/cubic foot
Known to the ancients
χαλκος κυπριος (chalkos kuprios) = metal from Cyprus (Greek)

History & Etymology

right The discovery of Copper goes back to prehistoric times. Estimates of the earliest use of Copper vary, but 5000 BC is not unreasonable. Gold was probably the first metal to attract man's attention because of its sparkling yellow color, and Iron in the form of meteorites may have been used before Copper in some localities.

By about 3500 BC Copper was being obtained in the Middle East by charcoal reduction of its ores, and by 3000 BC the advantages of adding Tin in order to produce the harder bronze was appreciated in India, Mesopotamia and Greece. This established the "Bronze Age", and copper has continued to be one of manís most important metals.

The earliest recorded use of copperware in India has been around 3000 BC the findings at Mohenjo-daro and Harappa, bear this out. The earliest documented observation of smelting of metals in India is by Greek historians in the 4th century BC.
Copper has been mentioned in the Periplus as an article of export from India. In those days Copper ore was extracted in a big way and it was smelted locally in South India and Rajputana, according to the Periplus Maris Erythreae, a maritime geography of the east-west trade, written in about the first century AD.

In his biography of the charismatic teacher and miracle worker Apollonius of Tyana (first century AD), the Greek biographer Lucius Flavius Philostratus of Lemnos (c. 170-c. 245) gives a detail account of Apollonius's journey to India. In the town of Taxila, the capital of the kingdom Hinduš (or Indus-country) he mentions a shrine, in which were hung pictures on Copper tablets representing the feats of Alexander and Porus. In his own words, "The various figures were portrayed in a mosaic of Orichalcum, Silver, Gold, and oxidised Copper, but the weapons in Iron. The metals were so ingeniously worked into one another that the pictures which they formed were comparable to the productions of the most famous Greek artists."

In astrology alchemy the seven heavenly bodies known to the ancients were associated with seven metals also known in antiquity:

Sun (Sol)Gold (Aurum)
Mercury (Mercurius)Mercury (Hydrargyrum)
VenusCopper (Cuprum)
Moon (Luna)Silver (Argentum)
MarsIron (Ferrum)
JupiterTin (Stannum)
SaturnLead (Plumbum)


In ancient India Copper was also known as Tamara, Copper plate was called Tamara-Patra. Tamrakar meant a Copper smith and Tamara-pana meant a Copper coin.

The long history of Copper is reflected in the many different words for this metal. See the list of names to the left and in the overview of Copper in over 100 languages (click here).

We can identify at least seven different roots. The main European branches of the Indo-European language (except Slavic) use derivations from the Latin cuprum.

1. Cuprum (many languages)
The original Latin word for copper was æs, but that word was extended to its alloy with tin, bronze, and as this was far more extensively used than pure Copper, the word's primary sense shifted to the alloy and a new word evolved for Copper, from the Latin form of the name of the island of Cyprus (in Greek Κυπρος [Kypros]), where copper was mined: Cyprium (æs) (Greek: χαλκος κυπριος [chalkos kuprios]).
Derivations are used in almost all Italic languages (except Italian!), Celtic and Germanic languages, also Finnish.
2. Rame (Italian)
Rame is derived from the original Latin word for Copper æs, æris (later bronze).
3. Miedź, med' (Northern Slavic).
Corruptions from the German "Schmied", "Geschmeide" = jewelry.
Used in most of the Slavic and Altaic languages.
4. Bakar (Turkish).
Used in Turkish, Albanian, Southern Slavic
5. Varis (Baltic).
"The ancient indigenous Baltic word for Copper (Latvian vars, Lithuanian varias, Old Prussian wargien) indicates that it was inherited from some ancient period, since it is not borrowed either from the Slavic or Germanic peoples...." (P. Schmidt).
6. Chalkos (χαλκος) (Greek).
Also in Aromanian.
7. Nahoshet.
Arabic and Hebrew.

In Japanese, the character 銅 is pronounced as "dou". But another widely used pronunciation is "akagane" ("aka" = red, "kane" = money, metal, or gold).

A peculiar website from Lavian-American Andis Kaulins, Indo-European Afro-Asiatic Words for Metals - Copper Lead Tin Iron Bronze Gold Amber. I am not sure what to think of the value of his unorthodox information, but give it for what it is worth. Kaulins presents the following list for Copper:

Sumerian KAxUD.BAR (or) UDxKA.BAR (or) SI.BAR
Latvian VARsh, dim. VARinsh
Lithuanian VARias
Old Prussian WARgien
Latvian SVAR- < *sa-VARS "weight"
Akkadian SIPARRU Hebrew SEPER
Arabic SIFRun
Sumerian URUDU ? ("copper, copper colored?)
Latvian RUDU- "copper colored"
Latvian  RUDVARIS (var. RUDU VARA )

And similar lists for Iron, Tin, and Lead. In examining all of these ancient terms for these metals, Kaulins sees that all names have two basic roots as their origin:
(1) "bar, var, par". Indo-European for "to smelt, boil" (Latvian var).
(2) "dzel, zil", meaning "yellow, gold, blue, dark blue, shiny" (Latvian zil).
According to Kaulins, the Latin Cuprum is not derived from Cyprus, but the other way round: the name Cyprus comes from the word for Copper.

Chemistianity 1873
COPPER, the Siamatic bond metal
'Tween integral parts of British Empire,
And Britain with all important nations,
Is a yellow tinged red colour'd metal,
Named Cuprum, moderately hard, ductile,
Very tenacious, and melts at white heat.
J. Carrington Sellars, Chemistianity, 1873, p. 164
Further reading
  • Mary Elvira Weeks, Discovery of the Elements, comp. rev. by Henry M. Leicester (Easton, Pa.: Journal of Chemical Education, 1968), pp. 18-29.
  • Grant Duff, Ancient India's Contribution to Production Technology and Mechanical Engineering. 1997. (on-line)
  • S. Srinivasan and S. Ranganathan, Metallurgical Heritage of India (on-line).
  • James B. Calvert, "Copper, Silver and Gold" 2002 (on-line).

Sources Index of Persons Index of Alleged Elements