What is ELEMENTS?

The various forms of matter of which all chemical combinations are composed. They are only to be regarded as elemental in the sense that they cannot be easily decomposed or split up into two or more distinct substances. Gold is an example, and from it substantially nothing but gold can be obtained, as distinct from a compound body like water which can be decomposed into hydrogen and oxygen. It is, however, conceivable, and believed by many, that all the elements are really compounded of one primordial matter, and only vary in character according to the physical conditions under which they exist and are recognized. Eightythiee or more of these entities are known, and there are probably more yet undiscovered. Most of these entities are metallic in character, but the nonmetallic ones exist more abundantly in nature, and include oxygen, silicon, hydrogen, nitrogen, carbon, chlorine, bromine, fluorine, and iodine. The two classes of metallic and nonmetallic bodies gradually merge into one another, the intermedate class being sometimes described as metalloidsarsenic, for example. In the abbreviated table given on p. 172 the metallic ones are marked with m, while those marked g exist ordinarily in the gaseous form. A more complete list of the chemical elements will be found on p. 44, and all are described under their several names. The symbols used to represent the chemical elements are for the most part abbreviations of their common names; thus, the symbol of hydrogen is H, that of nitrogen N, that of calcium Ca; but there are exceptions, and while it is a pity that the symbols of these exceptional instances are still used, it will be useful to explain the reason. The metal antimony has the symbol Sb because the Latin name for antimony is stibium. The metal lead has the symbol Pb, the Latin name for lead being plumbum. The metal mercury is indicated by the letters Hg, as the Latin name for it is hydrargyrum. Potassium is symbolized by the letter K, its Latin name being halimn. Sodium is symbolized by Na because natrium is its Latin name. The chemical constitution of compounds is represented by socalled formula or combinations of letters or symbols thus, the formula of common sat is NaCl, that of water HaO, and so forth.

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Definition of  ELEMENTS