#ChemistryAdvent #IYPT2019 Day 22: A periodic table of element mistakes

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I’ve had to remedy a few errors that have crept in through this series – to a degree, an inevitability when making a periodic table every day! I’m very grateful to those who’ve pointed out any errors or omissions.

For today’s periodic table, I thought it would be fun to make some deliberate errors and turn it into a bit of a challenge. The table above contains 25 different errors. Some are common mistakes, some are subtle changes, and some are, frankly, a bit silly. Can you spot all of them? I’ll post the answers here on 23rd December!


  1. Fluorine is misspelled as ‘flourine’. A common error, and one not just made by students!
  2. Fluorine has the incorrect symbol: Fl instead of F. Again, an easily made mistake. Fl is actually the symbol for flerovium.
  3. Sodium has the incorrect symbol: S instead of Na. Na comes from sodium’s latin name, natrium, which itself likely derived from arabic. S is the symbol for sulfur.
  4. Silicon is misspelled as ‘silicone’. Silicones are silicon-containing polymers.
  5. Phosphorus is misspelled as ‘phosphorous’. Another common misspelling!
  6. Sulfur is incorrectly spelled ‘sulphur’. Sulfur is the correct spelling, and there’s not much of an etymological basis for spelling it with a ‘ph’: https://www.nature.com/articles/nchem.301
  7. Potassium’s symbol is shown as P instead of K – potassium’s symbol comes from its latin name, kallium, which is itself derived from arabic.
  8. Titanium’s symbol is shown as ‘Tit’ instead of ‘Ti’. Historically, John Dalton actually used ‘Tit’ as his symbol for titanium. Can’t imagine why that didn’t catch on.
  9. Chromium’s symbol is shown as Ch instead of Cr.
  10. Germanium is incorrectly named ‘geranium’ (very much a flowering plant and not an element).
  11. Krypton is incorrectly named kryptonite. Despite the name similarity, the noble gas has nothing to do with the substance that’s Superman’s weakness.
  12. (12) Niobium (Nb) is incorrectly named Columbium (Cb). Both names were used for nearly 90 years before IUPAC ruled that niobium should be the name used in 1949.
  13. Tin is obviously not called tintin!
  14. Similarly, ‘bearium’ should be barium.
  15. Promethium is misspelled as ‘prometheum’ – one of the tricker ones to spot! It’s named after Prometheus, but gains the ‘-ium’ ending common to most metals in the periodic table.
  16. Erbium is misspelled as ‘herbium’ (a homophone in American English)
  17. Hafnium is misspelled as ‘hoffnium’ (there isn’t actually an element named after David Hasselhoff in the periodic table).
  18. Tungsten’s symbol is W, not Tu. The W comes a name still used in some languages, wolfram, derived from wolframite, the mineral it was originally found in.
  19. Rhenium’s symbol is shown as Rh instead of Re. Rh is actually the symbol for the similarly named rhodium, which appears earlier in the periodic table.
  20. Platinum is misspelled ‘platnium’.
  21. Gold is mispelled ‘gauld’ (gold’s symbol ‘Au’ comes from the latin name for gold, aurum).
  22. Plutonium’s symbol is Pu, not Pl. It’s widely claimed that this was a slightly childish joke on behalf of Glenn Seaborg, who liked the idea of the element’s symbol sounding like it was stinky (pee-yoo).
  23. Rutherfordium (Rf) is incorrectly shown as kurchatovium (Ku). Kurchatovium was the name proposed by Russian scientists for this element, but this was rejected in favour of the American suggestion, rutherfordium.
  24. Copernicium’s symbol is incorrectly shown as Cp instead of Cn. This was the original suggested symbol for the element, but it was changed to Cn as Cp is also used in chemistry to indicate a cyclopentadienyl group.
  25. Tennessine’s symbol is incorrectly shown as Tn instead of Ts. Despite the fact that Ts is commonly used in chemistry to denote the tosyl group (below), the proposed symbol for element 117 was waved through.

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