Temporary names of elements

Updated February 28, 2017 | Infoplease Staff

The Question:

Where do temporary names of new elements come from?

The Answer:

If you look at a recent periodic table of the elements, you'll probably see a few at the end which have yet to be officially named. During the time between discovery and the approval of a new name, temporary names and abbreviations are assigned using Latin roots, as follows:

  • 0 = nil
  • 1 = un
  • 2 = bi
  • 3 = tri
  • 4 = quad
  • 5 = pent
  • 6 = hex
  • 7 = sept
  • 8 = oct
  • 9 = enn

To get the temporary name of a new element, simply take the roots corresponding to its element number, and combine them with "ium." For the temporary abbreviation, use the first letter of each root.

So, for example, before it was officially named Meitnerium, element 109 was called unnilennium (un + nil + enn + ium), and was abbreviated Une. Element 115, unnamed as of this writing, is called ununpentium for now, and is abbreviated Uup.

-The Editors