Chemical Element: sulfur

(Modern Latin: from Sanskrit, solvere; or sulvere; and Latin, sulphur; nonmetal)

Chemical-Element Information

Symbol: S
Atomic number: 16
Year discovered: Prehistoric; known since ancient times.

Discovered by: Unknown

  • Sulfur got its name from the Latin word for brimstone (burning stone), and ignited sulfur is mentioned in the earlier records of many countries as having been used for religious ceremonies, for purifying (fumigating) buildings, and for bleaching cloth.
  • The Romans also used it in medicine and in warfare.
  • During the Middle Ages the alchemists regarded sulfur as the principle of combustibility.
  • It was first classified as an element by Lavoisier, in 1777, but many of his contemporaries considered it a compound of hydrogen and oxygen.
  • Joseph Gay-Lussac and Louis Thénard finally proved it was an element in 1809.

Name in other languages:

French: soufre

German: Schwefel

Italian: solfo

Spanish: azufre

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.