Symbols


You know people around you speak in
different languages. I know English, Hindi. Some may speak in
Punjabi, Bengali, others in Spanish, French and so on. So, there are a number of different
languages but where did these languages originate
from? Let’s see, Early man started writing in caves. He used these symbols as his language. Then came the alphabets in different languages.
When these alphabets combine, they form words in different languages and the combination of these words in all
the different languages gives sentences. So, a combination of words give the
sentences in different languages. So, when in English I am saying, I am studying
chemistry in some other language, say in Spanish I am
saying ‘Estoy estudiando Quimica’
Interesting, isn’t it? Well yes, so the basic structure of all the languages, remains the same.
The alphabets combine to give words, and the words come together to form the sentences. So, like these languages, Chemistry a separate branch
of science has its own language. This language, is
known as the language of Chemistry. So, like all languages start from
the alphabets, the language of Chemistry starts with the chemical symbols. We will see,
what these chemical symbols are. Have you seen Rang de Basanti? Do you
remember Amir Khan’s name in Rang de Basanti? Well, I asked a number of people and they
said his name was DJ. In the movie, actually his name was Diljeet,
but he was called DJ for the most time. So, people remembered him as DJ. Why is
this so? It is because it is easier to remember
and recall, shorter names. Since DJ is a short
name, it can be used more frequently. Similarly, in chemistry, there are 118 elements discovered so far. All have
big names. So, to use them again and again and to
write them again, it becomes a really tedious and difficult process.
So, for these names we use a short form. This short
form is known as Symbol. A symbol, is the short form of an element and this
symbol represents the element itself.
When we talk of a symbol, it represents one atom.
One atom of an element and in turn it
represents the entire element itself. Let’s see how: We know, that an element is a
combination of similar atoms. When the same
atoms come together, they form an element. So, a symbol is
a short form of one atom of an element. So, if I
denote this atom with a particular symbol,
this is the symbol for the entire element as the element is the combination of same atoms. So,
a symbol is the short form of an element. The first time, the symbols for the
elements was suggested by a scientist named John Dalton. He gave the figurative symbols,
for the elements. According to him, Oxygen can be
represented by a circle, Hydrogen by a a circle and a dot inside, Nitrogen with a circle and a line and so on. So, if you see it’s not very easy to remember these symbols.
If I ask you what is the symbol for Sodium, you might
get confused because Potassium is a circle with
three lines and Sodium is a circle with two lines. So, you might get confused with
Potassium. So, these figurative symbols are not very easy to
remember. So, then a scientist named Berzelius suggested another way to name the elements.
What he suggested was, in most cases, we take the 1st letter of the element name. So Carbon, the first letter is C, so the symbol for Carbon is capital C. Keep
in mind, the symbol is the capital letters. So, for Sulphur, the first
letter is S, so the symbol for Sulphur is capital S.
Similarly for Oxygen it is capital O and for Hydrogen it is capital H. But when the first letter is already used, what do we
do then? So, Berzelius suggested that when
the first letter is already used, use the first two letters. So, Calcium the first letter is C which is already the symbol for Carbon,
So in this case we use the first two letters. So, the
symbol becomes Ca. Now keep in mind, in this case when we write two letters, the first
letter is always a capital letter and the second is a small letter. Silicon, the first letter is S, this is
already a symbol for Sulphur. So, in this case we use the first two
letters. So, the symbol for silicon becomes Si. The first letter is capital
followed by a small letter. Similarly for Osmium and Helium,
O is the symbol for Oxygen, so we use Os, H is a symbol for Hydrogen so we
use He. So, when the first letter is already
used Berzelius suggested, that we use the
first two letters as the symbol. Now, remember whenever we use the
first two letters, the first letter is always a capital
letter, followed by a small letter. So, if we have Cobalt, its symbol is Co. What happens if you
write capital C capital O, you know capital C is a symbol of Carbon and capital O is a symbol of Oxygen. So, if you write capital C, capital O, it
is no longer Cobalt. It becomes one atom of Carbon and
one atom of Oxygen. So, whenever we use two letters as the
symbol for an element the first letter is always a
capital letter, followed by a small letter. Now, sometimes some elements like Iron the symbol for Iron is Fe and for
Potassium the symbol is K, but I do not see any
Fe in the name or I do not see any K in Potassium. So how do these elements get their symbols?
For some elements, they get their symbols from their Latin
names. So, Potassium, the Latin name is
Kalium. So, it gets its symbol from the first
letter that is K. Similarly, Copper: its Latin name is Cuprum, so, the symbol is the first two letters Cu. Iron: its Latin name is Ferrum, so it gets its symbol from its Latin
name. So,some elements get their symbols from
their Latin names. There are some miscellaneous symbols as well.
For example, Magnesium its symbol is Mg. Now you see that it’s
not the first letter, only neither the first two letters,
instead it is the first and the third letter. Similarly, For Zinc it’s the first and the
third letter. For some other elements say for
example, Silver it gets its name from the Latin name
Argentum, and in this the symbol is Ag. For Tin, Sn which gets its name from the
Latin name Stannum (Sn). So these are some miscellaneous names which are used as symbols. This was done to avoid
some discrepancy. Don’t worry, once you start using these
symbols again and again, it is very easy to remember and memorise them.

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47 thoughts on “Symbols

  1. I have understand what is symbol but what is qualitative and quantitative meaning of the term "symbol " can you please understand .๐Ÿค”๐Ÿค—

  2. Nothing is wrong …U expain all topic well…
    One kindly request mam…
    Don't bend ur neck towards …screen. ..
    U mostly do that…Mam…

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