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# Chemical symbol

A chemical symbol is an abbreviation or short representation of the name of a chemical element. Natural elements all have symbols of one or two letters; some man-made elements have temporary symbols of three letters.

Chemical symbols are listed in the periodic table and are used as shorthand and in chemical equations, e.g.,

$2H_2 + O_2\ \rightarrow\ 2H_2O$.

Because chemical symbols are often derived from the Latin or Greek name of the element, they may not bear much similar to the common English name, e.g., Na for sodium (Latin natrium) and Au for gold (Latin aurum).

In China, each chemical element is assigned an ideograph as its symbol; most of them have been explicitly created for this purpose (see Chinese characters for chemical elements).

Chemical symbols may also be changed to show if one particular isotope of an atom that is specified, as well as to show other attributes such as ionization and oxidation state of a chemical compound.

For complete listings of the chemical elements and their symbols, see:

Last updated: 10-11-2005 07:13:46