26. Ferrum (Iron) - Elementymology & Elements Multidict

Elementymology & Elements Multidict

This site comprises 120 pages of text and photos, one for each element, and several pages for access. – For captions or explanatory texts move your mouse over illustrations, links etc.

Ferrum Iron
IJzer – Eisen – Fer – Hierro – 鉄 – Железо – 鐵
Multilingual dictionary

Ferrum Latin

— Germanic
Yster Afrikaans
Jern Danish
Eisen German
Iron English
Jarn Faroese
Izer Frisian (West)
Járn Icelandic
Eisen Luxembourgish
IJzer Dutch
Jern Norwegian
Järn Swedish

— Italic
Fierro Aragonese
Heru Aromanian
Fierro Asturian
Ferro Catalan
Hierro Spanish
Fer French
Fier Friulian
Ferro Galician
Ferro Italian
Fèr Lombard
Fèrre Occitan
Ferro Portuguese
Fier Romanian - Moldovan

— Slavic
Желязо [Željazo] Bulgarian
Željezo, ²Gvožđe Bosnian
Жалеза [žaleza] Belarusian
Železo Czech
Željezo Croatian
Żelazło Kashubian
Железо [Železo] Macedonian
Żelazo Polish
Железо [Železo] Russian
Železo Slovak
Železo Slovenian
Гвожће [Gvožđe] Serbian
Залізо [zalizo] Ukrainian

— Baltic
Geležis Lithuanian
Dzelzs Latvian
Geležis Samogitian

— Celtic
Houarn Breton
Haearn Welsh
Iarann Gaelic (Irish)
Iarann (Iarrnaig) Gaelic (Scottish)
Yiarn Gaelic (Manx)
Horn Cornish

— Other Indo-European
Σιδηρος [sidiros] Greek
Երկաթ [erkat'] Armenian
Hekur[i] Albanian

— Indo-Iranian/Iranian
Hesin Kurdish
Æфсæйнаг [æfsæjnag] Ossetian
Оҳан [Ohan] Tajik

— Indo-Iranian/Indo-Aryan
আয়রন [āẏarana] Bengali
آهن [âhn] Persian
લોખંડ [lokha'ḍa] Gujarati
लोहा [lohā] Hindi

Raud Estonian
Rauta Finnish
Vas Hungarian
Кӧрт [Kört] Komi
Кӱртньӧ [Kürtn'ö] Mari
Кишни, Кшни [kishni, kshni] Moksha
Raud Võro

Dəmir Azerbaijani
Тимĕр [Timĕr] Chuvash
Темір [temir] Kazakh
Темир [Temir] Kyrgyz
Төмөр [tömör] Mongolian
Demir Turkish
تۆمۈر [tömür] Uyghur
Temir Uzbek

Other (Europe)
Burdina Basque
რკინა [rkina] Georgian

حديد [Hadīd] Arabic
ברזל [barzel] Hebrew
Ħadid Maltese

Thiet Hakka
[tetsu] Japanese
[ceol] Korean
เหล็ก [lek] Thai
Sắt Vietnamese
[tie3 / tit8] Chinese

Puthaw Cebuano
Besi Indonesian
Rino Māori
Besi Malay

Other Asiatic
ഇരുമ്പ് [irump] Malayalam
இரும்பு [irumpu] Tamil

Ebendé Lingala
Tshepe Sesotho
Feri, Chuma Swahili

Tlīltic tepoztli Nahuatl

Khillay Quechua

Isri Sranan Tongo

Fero Esperanto

New names
Iron Atomic Elements
Steelium Dorseyville
memory peg

Dark gray metal which readily oxidizes forming a black or red oxide
melting point 1535 °C; 2795 °F
boiling point 2750 °C; 4982 °F
density 7.87 g/cc; 491.56 pounds/cubic foot
Known to the ancients
Ferrum (Latin name for this metal)

History & Etymology

Although Iron occurs only sparingly in the free state, the abundance of ores from which it may be readily obtained led to its use in a very remote period. Iron has been known and used since prehistoric times. The writings of the most early civilizations refer to it, and there is evidence that it was known more than 7000 years ago; in China the usage of steel goes back to 2550 B.C. Some vedic poets wrote that their prehistoric ancestors already knew iron and were able to transform it into utensils through a considerable range of technics.
The Iron Age, the period of civilization during which this metal played an all-important part, succeeded the ages of copper and bronze, notwithstanding the fact that the extraction of these metals required greater metallurgical skill. The Assyrians and Egyptians made considerable use of the metal. In the Bible it is mentioned in Genesis 4:22:

And Zillah, she also bare Tubal-cain, an instructer of every artificer in brass and iron: and the sister of Tubal-cain was Naamah.
The earlier sources of the ores appear to have been in India. A remarkable Iron pillar, dating to about A.D. 400, remains standing today at the center of the Quwwat-ul-Islam Masjid, the first Moslem mosque in Delhi, India. This pillar is a classical example of massive production of high class Iron and is the biggest hand-forged block of Iron from antiquity.
According to information culled out from various Roman and Greek texts, metals like iron, tin, copper and brass were imported from India. These texts say that the metals were not being imported as an ore but as sheets. This presumes that the ore must have been smelted and cast into sheets in India before it was exported. References in Sanskrit literature also support this.

During the reigns of the Roman Emperors Marcus Aurelius and Commodus, Ferrum Indium appears in the list of dutiable articles. There also exists an ancient Greek chemical treatise entitled "On the Tempering of Indian Steel". The Arab geographer Al-Idrisi (1099-1166) has noted that "The Hindus excel in the manufacture of iron. They have also workshops wherein are forged the most famous sabres in the world. It is impossible to find anything to surpass the edge that you get from Indian Steel". This passage which has been quoted in the notes to the Periplus on page 71 proves beyond doubt, in the words of a foreign historian, that the art of smelting and casting iron was well developed in ancient India.

The Hindi word for Iron is लॊहा (lohā). In ancient times, in India, "Loha-churna" meant iron ore; "Kupya-shala" and "Sandhaani" meant an iron foundry. A furnace was called "Chuli" or "Agnikund". Wrought iron was called "Lohabandhan", iron bars were called "Loha-pindaha". Smelting of iron was called "Loha-drava-Karan" (literally, liquefaction of Iron). "Loha-chinha" meant an iron mould and "Lohakaraka" meant a smith or ironmonger (Duff).
Other (later?) sources for Iron for the Greeks, were the Chalybes, who dwelt on the south coast of the Black Sea; and for the Romans, besides drawing from these deposits, also Spain, Elba and the province of Noricum. (1911 Encyclopedia).

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)

The long history of Iron is reflected in the many different words for this metal. See the list of names to the left and in the overview of Iron in over 100 languages (click here), Gábor Lente of Debrecen university found even more, 213 words for iron (his PDF-file here).
We can identify at least 15 different roots, even the three main European branches of the Indo-European language group have different roots for their name of this common metal: ferrum, the Germanic isarn and the Slavic železo.

1. Ferrum (Italic branch)
Ferrum, the Latin, is the root for the modern names for iron in the Italic languages. The word ferrum is possibly of Semitic origin.
2. Eisarn (Germanic and Celtic branches)
The word is already present in the old languages: Old Saxon îsarn, Old Frisian and Old English isern, Old High German isarn, isan, Old Norse îsarn, Gothic eisarn. According to some, the Germanic word is borrowed from Celtic îsarno (Old Irish iarn, Gaulish isarnodori), which in turn is probably from the Illyrians, who had in the Hallstat period a monopoly in iron production in Austria. Probably this word again is derived from an Indo-European ayos, ayes-, metal, which still exists as the Latin aes, Old-Indian ayas, also the Gothic aiz and Old Norse eir for ore. This word can be derived from the old name for Cyprus, Ajasja (deVries, MacBain's dictionary).
3. Železo (Железо) (Slavic and Baltic branches)
The Slavic languages, except Serbian use almost identical forms. The Baltic forms seems to be based on the Slavic root.

Other forms used in Europe:

4. Gvožđe
Serbian and Bosnian
5. Sidèros (Σιδηρος)
6. Hekur
7. Æfsæjnag (Æфсæйнаг)
8. Rauta
Uralic languages in Northern Europe.
9. Vas
10. Burdina
11. Rkina

Outside Europe:

12. Demir
Altaic languages (except Tajik), probably also the Japanese tetsu is related
13. Ayas, Âhan
Sanskrite (ayas), related (?) to Farsi (âhan) and others.
14. Ħadid
Arabic languages
15. Loha (लॊहा)

A peculiar website from the 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 Iron:

Sumerian AN.BAR
Akkadian PAR.ZILLU
Aramaic PAR.ZEL
Hebrew BAR.ZEL
Arabic FIR.ZILun
Lithuanian ZHAL.VARis "bronze"
Latvian DZELs "iron"
Latvian ZEL.TS "gold"

And similar lists for Copper, 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" (cf. ferrum in Latin). Indo-European for "to smelt, boil" (Latvian var). (N.B. Kaulins makes a note here: "and of course the root of FERRO- «iron» in Latin, which currently has a false etymology.").
(2) "dzel, zil", meaning "yellow, gold, blue, dark blue, shiny" (Latvian zil).


In 1850 the Swedish chemist Clemens Ullgren (1811-1868) described a new element, Aridium (note). Three years later, J.F. Bahr proved Aridium is nothing more than impure Iron (note).


Just as Helium was discovered by means of spectroscopical analysis of the the sun, there were a few other elements discovered in the spectra of stars and nebulae which are not known on earth: Coronium and Nebulium (see Oxygen). But, it was found out that the unusual spectral lines originated from known elements in unusual conditions.

A strange green line in the spectrum of the suns corona, observed during the solar eclipse of 7 August 1869, was ascribed to the presence of a new element which was called Coronium. (Cf. Geocoronium at Nitrogen). Only in 1939 the real meaning of the green Coronium line was found: the lines come from [Fe XIV] and Coronium was placed on the list of non-existent elements (note).

Chemistianity 1873
IRON, the Lever of Britain's Commerce,
Named Ferrum, is a bright, white, and tough yet soft metal;
Its dust when pure, fires when exposed to Air;
Iron is magnetic from cold to red heat;
It requires a very high heat to fuse;
When cast, its structure is crystalline cubes;
Hot Iron hammer'd is granular, when roll'd, fibrous.

Slave Iron, the lever of Britain's commerce,
Work'd by the genius of Man,
Now spans waters vast, Trade-wealth to disperse,
Fulfilling God's foredestined plan.

True Iron honour serves in our country's need,
True as Steel 's the type of a man,
Honour must be till'd where choked by ill weed,
God speed to the speediest plan.

Tough Iron is jannak and with Vigour graft,
Tough as Iron 's the proof of a Man,
String up your sinews, like the Bearing-shaft
In the Civilization Van.

Then will iron, coal, and cotton together,
Three Gems to a Lancashire Man,
We'll ward wind and weather, and reap Earth's treasure,
So give praise to Old Iron and klan.

J. Carrington Sellars, Chemistianity, 1873, p. 144 & 150-151
Further reading
  • Mary Elvira Weeks, Discovery of the Elements, comp. rev. by Henry M. Leicester (Easton, Pa.: Journal of Chemical Education, 1968), pp. 29-40.
  • Grant Duff, Ancient India's Contribution to Production Technology and Mechanical Engineering. 1997. (on-line)
  • James B. Calvert, "Iron" 2002 (on-line).

Sources Index of Persons Index of Alleged Elements