Elements Named After Places


Many chemical elements are named after places.
Many chemical elements are named after places. Examples of elements named for countries include americium (America), francium (France), germanium (Germany), nihonium (Japan or Nihon), and polonium (Poland).

Here is an alphabetical list of chemical elements named after places (element toponyms). The places include countries, regions, states, cities, laboratories, and mythical lands. A separate list covers elements named after planets and other astronomical objects.

  • Americium – Named after America or the Americas
  • Berkelium – Named after the University of California at Berkeley
  • Beryllium – Named for the mineral beryl, which makes it indirectly named for Belur, India
  • Californium – Named for the State of California and University of California at Berkeley
  • Copper – Probably named for Cyprus, an island country in the eastern Mediterranean
  • Darmstadtium – Element named after Darmstadt, Germany, which is home to the GSI Helmholtz Centre for Heavy Ion Research
  • Dubnium – Named after Dubna, Russia, which is home to the Joint Institute for Nuclear Research
  • Erbium – Named for Ytterby, a town in Sweden
  • Europium – Named after Europe
  • Francium – Element named after France
  • Gallium – Named for Gallia, which is Latin for France. Also named for Lecoq de Boisbaudran, the element’s discoverer (Lecoq in Latin is gallus)
  • Germanium – Named after Germany
  • Hafnium – Named for Hafnia, Latin for Copenhagen
  • Hassium – Named for Hesse, Germany
  • Holmium – Named after Holmia, Latin for Stockholm
  • Indium – Named for the indigo line in its spectrum, which makes it indirectly named for India
  • Livermorium – Named for the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory
  • Lutetium – Named for Lutecia, an ancient name for Paris
  • Magnesium – Named for the Magnesia prefecture in Thessaly, Greece
  • Manganese – Named for the Magnesia prefecture in Thessaly, Greece
  • Moscovium – Named for Moscow Oblast, Russia
  • Nihonium – Element named for Japan (Nihon)
  • Polonium – Element named after Poland
  • Rhenium – Named for Rhenus, which is Latin for the Rhine, a German province
  • Ruthenium – Named for Ruthenia, Latin for Russia
  • Scandium – Named after Scandia, Latin for Scandinavia
  • Strontium – Named for Strontian, a town in Scotland
  • Tennessine – Element named for Tennessee, home to Oak Ridge National Laboratory
  • Terbium – Named after Ytterby, Sweden
  • Thulium – Named for Thule, a mythical island in the far north (perhaps in Scandinavia)
  • Ytterbium – Named after Ytterby, Sweden
  • Yttrium – Named for Ytterby, Sweden

Note four elements are named for Ytterby, Sweden. This region was the source of the ore used to isolate the elements yttrium, terbium, erbium, and ytterbium.

Elements Named for Planets and Astronomical Objects

Planets and astronomical objects are places, but these element names might also refer to the gods and goddesses associated with the names.

  • Cerium – Ceres, the first discovered asteroid or dwarf planet.
  • Helium – Helios, the Greek name for the Sun
  • Mercury – Mercury, a planet.
  • Neptunium – Neptune, a blue planet.
  • Palladium – Pallas, the second asteroid to be discovered.
  • Plutonium – Pluto, a dwarf planet.
  • Selenium – Selene, the Greek name for the Moon.
  • Tellurium – Tellus, the Latin name for the Earth.
  • Uranium – Uranus, a planet.

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