MadSci Network: Science History

Re: What is the reason why hydrogen, oxygen, and nitrogen all end in -en?

Date: Wed Dec 3 10:15:41 2003
Posted By: Michael Onken, Moderator, MadSci Network
Area of science: Science History
ID: 1070417968.Sh

Actually, they all end in -gen! The root word -gen- means "to produce or make" as in "generate." Hydro- means "water," so hydrogen is "that which makes water." Oxy- means "acid" and nitro- means "niter" (also known as saltpeter: potassium nitrate). Fluorine, Chlorine, Bromine, Iodine, and Astatine (all ending in -ine?!) are halogens: halo- means "salt." In each case, the element was first discovered as a necessary component of a common compound or reaction. The names reflect their discoveries as well as something about their chemical activities.

Brilliant observation!

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