On 19 Apr 2005 12:54:14 -0700, firstname.lastname@example.org wrote:
If in doubt, assume the name of any metal or mining term is ancient
Steel is from the German "Stahl", which is ancient.
Iron has the chemical symbol Fe, from the Latin "Ferrum"
No-one (AFAIK) knows the real etymology of "iron". It's certainly old,
and is sometimes said to be from "aesir" (Norse) or "aisar" (Etruscan),
both terms meaning "the gods". Because iron rusts, it isn't found in
metallic form in geological deposits, as copper is. What iron or steel
was found naturally occurring was meteoric or "from the gods".
Copper's Greek name was "chalkos", which still crops up in mineral names
like chalcopyrite. From Roman times though it became known by the place
it was mined - Cyprus. "aes cyprium" were "alloys of Cyprus", which
eventually became cuprum (hence the chemical symbol Cu) and then the
"Tin" came from an old German word meaning "foreign", as it needed to be
imported. There was an ancient tin trade with Cornwall and the
Mediterranean, to make bronze. Apart from the fact it hasn't sunk yet,
Cornwall may have been the historical Atlantis.
Zinc comes from "Zinke", a 16th century Bohemian term for "point", in
relation to the crystal shape of this newly discovered metal. Although
brass was ancient, smelting the pure metal itself is relatively recent.
Cobalt and nickel are amusing, both being named after demons.
"Kupfernickel" ("copper imp") was a "fool's gold" of Bohemian copper
miners - it looked like valuable copper ore, but was worthless (at the
Cobalt was a bit more dangerous. The silver mines in the Harz mountains
also contained veins of minerals rich in cobalt, arsenic and sulphur.
This was toxic (possibly from arsine gas) and the miners blamed demons
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