Thursday, April 19

Elemental Names: Carbon

Periodic table, found via UNIFORM on Tumblr

"We are stardust/ billion-year-old carbon/ we are golden/ caught in the devil's bargain" (I just can't get away from Joni Mitchell) Carbon is one of my favorite elements — its various allotropes run the gamut from light (diamond, which is hard and transparent) to dark (graphite, soft and black) and it is found in all known life forms. Our human bodies are made up of about 18.5% carbon, making it the second most abundant element by mass, after oxygen. It is the chemical basis of all known life. Rock on, carbon.


The name Carbon comes from the Latin carbo, meaning "coal" or "charcoal." Old Norse Koli is a masculine name meaning "coal," or "dark" — Colby is a surname derived from that element paired with one meaning "town." The popular name Cole experienced its first popularity decline since 1989 in 2010, coming in at #89 on the US charts after ranking at #82 in 2009. Interestingly, it ranks higher in Canada and Scotland. Cole comes from Cola, an Old English nickname referring to charcoal, given to someone with dark features.

Almas is a unisex Arabic name meaning "diamond." Other names with diamond meanings include Indonesian Intan, a girls name, and Pich, a unisex Khmer name. Literal translations include Manx Daiman, Papiamentu Djamanta, Setswana Teemane and Swahili Almasi, which I find really appealing.

Carbon is the 6th element — Sextus is Latin for sixth and was a name sometimes given to the sixth child born to Roman families. The "Sex-" prefix is probably best avoided if naming an actual child, but Welsh form Seisyll is pretty intriguing, as is Italian Sesto. Here are some words for "six" in other languages that might work as given names: Shida (Hausa), Lix (Somali), Sittä (Arabic), Eneme (Rukai), Lima (Yami), Mataru (Truku), Enina (Malagasy), Sia (Scottish Gaelic), Zèsse (West Flemish), Haya (Sinhala), Jeego (Pular) and Gostán (Western Apache)

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