neon

Neon, element number 10, has perhaps the most unimaginative name in all of chemistry. It was discovered in 1898 by British chemists William Ramsay and Morris Travers. They dubbed the new gas neo-, the Greek for new, + the suffix -on, as in argon, because like argon it is a noble gas and very unreactive.

In 1898, the discoverers wrote in the Proceedings of the Royal Society:

The density of this gas, which we propose to name “neon” (new) was next determined.1

Not only is the name thoroughly pedestrian, it was guaranteed to be a misnomer with the passage of a few years.

The chemical symbol for neon is Ne, taken from the first two letters of the name.


1Oxford English Dictionary, neon, 3rd Edition, March 2009, Oxford University Press, accessed 26 August 2009, http://dictionary.oed.com/cgi/entry/00322965

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