manganese

The name of the metal manganese, element number 25, comes from the French and Italian. It is probably from the medieval Latin magnesia, and ultimately from the name of the Magnesia region in Greece, although the form of manganese does not follow typical etymological patterns that would point to an origin in the name magnesia. The word manganèse appears in Middle French in 1578 and makes its English debut in 1662 in Christopher Merrett’s translation of Neri’s Art of Glass. This is not a reference to elemental manganese, but manganese oxide, or black manganese, used in glass-making:

Take Manganese of Piemont, for this is the best of all the Manganeses at this day known in the art of glass.

Use of the name to refer to elemental manganese dates to 1783, when it appears in William Withering’s translation of Bergmann’s Outlines of Minerology:

Manganesium or Manganese [...] This new metal is soluble in all the acids.1

In 1774 Swedish chemist Johan Gottlieb Gahn had been the first to isolate the element manganese.

Manganese has the chemical symbol Mn, taken from among the first letters of its name.


1Oxford English Dictionary, manganese, 3rd Edition, June 2009, Oxford University Press, accessed 9 September 2009, http://dictionary.oed.com/cgi/entry/00301026

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