Q:

How did lithium get its name?

A:

Quick Answer

The word "lithium" is derived from the Greek word for stone, "lithos", because it was first discovered in stone. Lithium is one of several alkali metals discovered and named in the early 1800s. The other two, sodium and potassium were also named after the materials that were being studied when they were discovered.

Know More
How did lithium get its name?
Credit: AFP/Getty Images AFP Getty Images

Full Answer

Potassium's name is derived from the English word "potash", a term for plant ashes that is no longer in common use. Sodium's name comes from "soda", a word of possibly Arabic origins that refers to the ashes of a particularly sodium rich plant, the saltwort.

The other two alkali metals had been discovered by an English scientist named Davy, using his newly developed method of electrolysis. Lithium was discovered by the Swedish scientist Johan August Arfwedson 8 years later, in 1817. Arfwedson was studying a mineral called petalite. The mineral had been previously described by a Brazilian scientist named José Andrada, but Andrada had not analysed the mineral's individual components.

While studying the mineral, Arfwedson found that it was composed of silica and alumina. It also contained, at 3% by weight, an unknown alkaline substance. Attempts to draw it out using tartaric acid failed, proving that the substance could not be potassium or magnesium. Arfwedson concluded that this substance must be a new alkali metal. Berzelius, his assistant, notes that it was named "lithium" because it was discovered in a mineral, whereas the two other new metals were discovered in botanical sources.


Is this answer helpful?

Similar Questions

  • Q:

    How did beryllium get its name?

    A:

    The name of beryllium is derived from the Greek word for beryl, beryllos. It is based on the fact that beryllium is a component of the mineral, which was known as beryl before the element's discovery. Beryllium was discovered in 1797 by Nicolas Louis Vauquelin.

    Full Answer >
    Filed Under:
  • Q:

    How did yellow journalism get its name?

    A:

    The term, "yellow journalism" was derived from the popular comic strip "Hogan's Alley," which starred a character named The Yellow Kid. At the end of the 19th century, rival New York newspapers printed their own versions of The Yellow Kid in an effort to win over readers.

    Full Answer >
    Filed Under:
  • Q:

    How did Asia get its name?

    A:

    The name of the continent of Asia was derived from a word in Ancient Greek and was used in Herodutus' Histories in 440 B.C. It is speculated that the name was in use long before its first appearance in text, but may have initially referred to only a small area of land on the eastern end of the Aegean Sea in an area referred to as Assuwa by the Hittites.

    Full Answer >
    Filed Under:
  • Q:

    How did Mississippi get its name?

    A:

    According to the Encyclopædia Britannica, Mississippi's name was derived from a Native American language. The Online Etymology Dictionary explains that the name was originally that of the river. The name combines the Ojibwa words "mshi," meaning "big," and "ziibi," meaning "river."

    Full Answer >
    Filed Under:

Explore