Nickel, element number 28, like cobalt which immediately precedes it on the periodic table also has a “demonic” origin. German miners called the ore Kupfernickel, or copper-demon, because it deceptively resembled valuable copper. The miners blamed this deception on a demon, hence the nickel, a common German appellation for the devil (as in the English practice of referring to Satan as Old Nick. Cf. pumpernickel.)
In 1754, Swedish chemist Axel Fredrik Cronstedt, who first isolated elemental nickel from the ore, shortened the German name to nickel. The name began appearing in English the following year.1
Nickel has the chemical symbol Ni, taken from the first two letters of its name.
1The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, nickel, 4th Edition, Houghton Mifflin Company, 2004, accessed 13 September 2009 from Dictionary.com; Oxford English Dictionary, nickel, 3rd Edition, June 2008, Oxford University Press, accessed 12 September 2009, http://dictionary.oed.com/cgi/entry/00324250.
Copyright 1997-2013, by David Wilton