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How did the element zinc get its name?

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Quick Answer

The name for the element zinc comes from the German word "zink." According to the Royal Society of Chemists, this in turn may have come from the Persian word "sing," which means stone. Zinc is one of the most used metallic elements and is an important trace element in humans and other animals.

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One of the most common uses of zinc is in a process called galvanization, in which a material that is easily corroded is given a thin protective layer of corrosion resistant zinc. Galvanization accounts for more than one-third of all zinc used in the world and can be done in one of two ways. The less common way is to simply dip the object into molten zinc, but the layer of zinc most often is applied through electroplating.

Zinc is also commonly mixed with other metals to create useful alloys, such as brass. Brass usually contains between 55 and 95 percent copper, with zinc making up the difference. This alloy was first discovered more than 2,500 years ago and still remains popular for use in musical instruments, decorative hardware and many other purposes.

Although some compounds of zinc have been in use for thousands of years, it wasn't until the 1400s that a person in India isolated pure metallic zinc. However, the official credit for the element's discovery usually goes to Andreas Margrraf, who identified it in 1746.

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