Elements Named for Celestial Bodies

The element selenium is named for the moon.

The element selenium is named for the moon.

Here’s an alphabetical list of elements named for astronomical objects, or perhaps from the gods/goddesses for which the objects were named. Most names come from planets, the moon, and the sun, since these objects are easily seen in the sky.

  • Cerium – Ceres, the first asteroid to be discovered. Roman goddess of grain, similar to the Greek’s Demeter.
  • Helium – Helios, the Greek name for the Sun
  • Mercury – Mercury, a planet. Winged Roman god of travel.
  • Neptunium – Neptune, a blue planet. Roman god of the sea.
  • Palladium – Pallas, the second asteroid to be discovered. Greek name given to Athena after she killed a playmate named Pallas or, according to some legends, the giant Pallas. Palladium was also the name of a sacred image kept in the temple of Athena at Troy.
  • Plutonium – Pluto, a planet. Roman god of the underworld, said to be able to render himself invisible.
  • Selenium – Selene, the Greek name for the Moon.
  • Tellurium – Tellus, the Latin name for the Earth. Roman earth goddess; also called Terra Mater, similar to the Greek’s Gaea.
  • Uranium – Uranus, a planet. Greek god of the heavens, son of Gaea.


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