Fun With Elemental Symbols

Since all matter including people consists of elements, it’s nice to see proper names entirely composed of elemental symbols, like , or if you recall the actress who played the part of a sultry James Bond villain,, or if we stick to chemistry .  In the English language alone, there are also thousands of improper nouns with such properties (27192, to be exact), and of course someone wrote a program to generate an exhaustive list. Probably one of the most interesting ones is CHOPS, as in pork chops, because the elements are all actually found in meat and include five of the six most common elements in living matter.

Unfortunately, it’s a hopeless case for any chemical compound’s name ending in ide, but luckily there is CoPPEr CArBONaTe, a substance formerly believed to make up Lady Liberty’s veneer. It’s ironic that more names, relative to inorganic nomenclature, exist for the elements themselves (IrON, CArBON, TiN, NeON, KrYPtON, SiLiCoN, CoPPEr, ArSeNIC, SiLvEr and four others). Silver’s inclusion depends on the synthetic superheavy element  Lv, or livermorium, a name only officially adopted last year after the element was synthesized in 2000 from uniting calcium and curium nuclei. Livermorium is not honoring dead liver but named after the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory.

In organic chemistry, it should be easy to find names fitting the criteria, given the field’s gargantuan vocabulary. Although there are none among the basic heterocyclics; only AlKYNe among the basic functional groups and the lone VAlINe among the 20 amino acids, there is a sweet spot among alkanes: PrOPaNe, BUTaNe, NoNaNe and gasoline’s HePTaNe and OCTaNe. And turning to astronomy, order in the universe is further restored due to the existence of the MoON, SUN, SAtURn, NePtUNe, URaNUS, at least one asteroid, CeReS, at least a couple of constellations, BOOTeS and CaPrICORnUS, and some of the brightest stars, SIrIUS, AlTaIr and SPICa.

Spica’s name contains two of the alpha ladder elements (Ca and S) produced during helium fusion. The remaining pair, phosphorus and iodine, are formed mostly in type II supernovae, and being a blue giant with 10 solar masses, Spica is a candidate for such a fate.

* This article was coauthored and edited by PINa.

A few related riddles:

1. The series Breaking Bad used a single elemental symbol for each name in its credits. fraserWho was the only regular whose entire real or fictional name can be written with symbols?

2. Which of the elemental symbols in CORnFLaKEs are actual elements found in cereal?

3. Are there any metallic elements among the symbols of IONIC?

4. Which vegetable can be spelled with elemental symbols and also contains every element within its tissues?


1. LaURa FrAsEr who played the callous Lydia Rodarte-Quayle in 12 episodes. Notice the poison, As , in her name, but she was killed by ricin, which because of the “r”, cannot be entirely spelled out with symbols  

2. carbon, oxygen and potassium(K).

3. Yes Ni, nickel and, and how IrONIC, that the word “ironic” has both metals and nonmetals’ symbols!

4. SPINaCH.  Although not high in the sulfur-containing amino acids methionine and cysteine, spinach does contain some of those compounds along with sulfur containing enzymes and coenzymes.   Phosphorus is in ATP, DNA and other compounds. Spinach is one of the vegetables that’s richest in iodine; it has a little bit of Na: 24 mg of sodium per 30 gram serving; carbon and hydrogen are all over the place in its oils, carbohydrates, vitamins and protein.

And finally, BeNiCe, even if it means bringing together members of different families!


2 thoughts on “Fun With Elemental Symbols

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  1. An auxesis is a figure of speech listing things in order of ascending importance. Au(gold), Xe (xenon), Si(silicon) and sulfur(S) are elements in order of increasing importance to life. Sulfur is an essential element. For Si’s minor role see ; Why would xenon be more important than gold? Some rare isotopes break down to iodine, which plays a role in life. Gold is biologically useless.


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