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Also see chemical formula.


A chemical symbol is an abbreviation or shortened version of the name of an element generally assigned in relation to its Latin name. Natural elements all have symbols of one or two letters; some man-made elements have temporary symbols of three letters. Each element is usually denoted by the a capital letter, corresponding to the first letter of its English or Latin name, e.g. Hydrogen, Nitrogen and Oxygen are symbolically represented by H, N and O, respectively. However, when the first letter name of several elements is the same, then the element is represented by two letters. The first letter of the symbol is a capital letter followed by the second letter a small letter. Calcium and Silicon are indicated by Ca and Si for example.

Chemical symbols are listed in the periodic table and are used as shorthand and in chemical equations, e.g.,
2H2 + O2 → 2H2O
Because chemical symbols are often derived from the Latin or Greek name of the element, they may not bear much similarity to the common English name, e.g., Na for sodium (Latin natrium) and Au for gold (Latin aurum).

In Chinamarker, 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 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.

Attached subscripts or superscripts specifying a nucleotide or molecule have the following meanings and positions:

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


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