Chemical Element: sodium

(Modern Latin: English, soda, compound of sodium; the symbol comes from Latin natrium; "a salt"; metal)

Chemical-Element Information

Symbol: Na
Atomic number: 11
Year discovered: 1807

Discovered by: Sir Humphry Davy (1778-1829), an English chemist.

  • Until the 18th century no distinction was made between potassium and sodium.
  • This was because early chemists did not recognize that “vegetable alkali” (potassium carbonate, coming from deposits in the earth) and “mineral alkali” (sodium carbonate, derived from wood ashes) are distinct from each other.
  • Eventually a distinction was made. Sodium was isolated in 1807 by Sir Humphry Davy, who obtained it through the electrolysis of very dry molten sodium hydroxide.
  • It was known that an electric current would break up water molecules into hydrogen and oxygen when more customary chemical methods failed.
  • Metallic sodium is a soft silvery white material that tarnishes rapidly in air because of the formation of a film of the oxide.
  • Sodium is very widely distributed in the form of its compounds, of which ordinary salt, or sodium chloride, is the most familiar.

Name in other languages:

French: sodium

German: Natrium

Italian: sodio

Spanish: sodio

Information about other elements may be seen at this Chemical Elements List.

A special unit about words that include chemo-, chem- may be seen here.