Chemical Element: tin

(Modern Latin: from Anglo-Saxon, tin; symbol from Latin stannum; meaning “tin”; metal)

Chemical-Element Information

Symbol: Sn
Atomic number: 50
Year discovered: Prehistoric; known since ancient times.

Discovered by: Unknown.

  • Tin was known to the ancients and is mentioned in the Old Testament.
  • The earliest traceable history of tin is connected with the history of the copper-tin alloy, bronze.
  • Bronze articles from Ur, dated about 3500 B.C., were found to have tin contents between 10 and 15 percent.
  • The Phoenicians are believed to have played an important part in spreading the early bronze culture by trading in tin taken from Britain and Spain.
  • Early metal workers found it too soft for most purposes but mixed with copper it gives the alloy bronze, of Bronze Age fame.
  • Tin has given much to the cultural and economic growth of civilization in the fields of telecommunication (solder), transportation (bearings), architecture (bronze), music (bells and organ pipes), and food preservation (tinplate).
  • The unique physical and chemical properties of tin result in more widespread uses than for any other metal.
  • Since tin is not inexpensive, uses are quite selective and favor applications where other metals are not sufficient or where it is used sparingly.
  • For example, the electroplated tin coating on a food container stands far ahead of other metal coatings because it is “completely non-toxic”, it is very corrosion resistant in vacuum packs, tarnish resistant in air, attractive in appearance, and above all, the very thin coating is not expensive.

Name in other languages:

French: étain

German: Zinn

Italian: stagno

Spanish: estaño

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.