I continued building vocabulary for my conlang, and now I'm trying to name chemical elements.

Here's the concept: The major speakers of this conlang are angels, and some of them have lived for a long time. Some have lived since when ancient Greeks lived, and as such, I imagine my conlang to incorporate modern theories of chemistry to ancient alchemical concepts, prominently the theory of 4 elements; earth, water, air, and fire.

So here is the sketch.

Earth-like elements:

The composition of the earth's crust gives a way of vocabularizing some elements. I name these elements earthlings, which are:

  • Second earthling = Silicon(Si)
  • Third earthling = Aluminum(Al)
  • Fourth earthling = Iron(Fe)

Water-like elements:

Though water itself is a compound, the salt in the sea water is what to be called waterlings. Those are:

  • First waterling = Chlorine(Cl)
  • Second waterling = Sodium(Na)
  • Third waterling = Magnesium(Mg)
  • Fifth waterling = Calcium(Ca)
  • Sixth waterling = Potassium(K)

Air-like elements:

Earth's atmosphere gives some elements as well:

  • First airling = Nitrogen(N)
  • Third airling = Argon(Ar)

Fire-like elements:

There is only one element that is worth to be called fireling. It's oxygen(O).

Furthermore, since water is a compound of hydrogen and oxygen, I subtract the oxygen to acquire hydrogen. Hydrogen(H) is disfired water.


So what about other elements? I put infra-/sub-/hypo- prefixes to subtract periods, and put ultra-/super-/hyper- prefixes to add periods (similar to Mendeleev's "eka-"). For examples:

  • Hyposecond earthling = Carbon(C)
  • Hypothird earthling = Boron(B)
  • Superfourth earthling = Osmium(Os)
  • Hypofirst waterling = Fluorine(F)
  • Hyposecond waterling = Lithium(Li)
  • Hypothird waterling = Beryllium(Be)
  • Ultrafirst airling = Phosphorus(P)
  • Subthird airling = Helium(He)
  • Hypothird airling = Neon(Ne)
  • Ultrafireling = Sulfur(S)
  • Hyperfireling = Tellurium(Te)


Yet still, I have a majority of elements uncovered. How should I name the rest? Is there a general strategy, or are they gonna be arbitrary choices?

  • To make any kind of sense of this question, what do you mean by "angel" in the context of a non-human creature in your world?
    – elemtilas
    Commented Apr 11, 2023 at 2:32
  • @elemtilas There had been a few refinements of my worldbuilding. Actually, this question is outdated. In the current sketch, angels have been a thing since the birth of Newton (also an angel). Commented Apr 11, 2023 at 4:08
  • i guess what I'm getting at is what is the nature of these angels? That would help in understanding why they would use such a system as you describe, which to me is sounding much like a system one might find in an old style philosophical language.
    – elemtilas
    Commented Apr 11, 2023 at 4:53
  • @elemtilas The nature of these angels are that, each of them is a guardian of a specific branch of science (whether natural or social), and will fight for defending the science. The targets are usually pseudosciences, though scientific revolution is a thing. (Einstein would let Newton retire, for example.) Commented Apr 11, 2023 at 5:25

2 Answers 2


This system of element names has one major flaw: it's anthropocentric in all the wrong ways.

Yeah, the angels making this language up are trying to communicate with us plebeian humans, but the angels themselves aren't human and I imagine they are trying to get us to break free of the shackles of Earthly life (if they aren't, why are they trying to be so precise? Just keep us in the dark ages with straight-up alchemy). This system is tailor made to apply only to our own planet, and will be useless once we leave.

Worse, the Western Four Element schema is just that: Western. The East Asian civilizations of the time (and still to this day in traditional medicine) used the Five Phases.

It would be far more useful to emphasize the Periodic Table first, and get us plebeian humans asking the right questions. Why is the part of the air we breath called the second chalk? Because it is the chalcogen in period two. Table salt is composed of the second halo and the third soda. The second chalk combines with the prime element in a ratio of 1:2 to form water. The sun transmutes the prime element into the first noble.

In general, the system works like this: Name the columns, number the periods. Hydrogen gets special treatment because it can behave as if it belongs in column I, IV or VII. The transition metals and the rare earth metals will also need special treatment because the columns get muddled together so deep into the Periodic Table.

And if you really want to keep the classical connection, the four elements do map rather cleanly to CHNOPS, the elements of life: H and O compose water, P and S are both associated with fire, and C and N spend most of their bio-cycles in the air, with the trace metals like Fe and Ca as earth.

  • 1
    Fire, Earth, Air, and Water are fairly common in native traditions in North America, at least, sometimes in combination with a fifth (Spirit, as far as I can tell, being used by at least some groups). In Buddhism, there were the same 4, Hinduism had the basic 4 plus "void/space". Chinese, leaving out "air" and adding "wood" and "metal" is really the odd one one in the world, generally speaking. Commented Mar 29, 2023 at 23:14
  • @KeithMorrison Then I stand corrected
    – No Name
    Commented Mar 29, 2023 at 23:28

For having a notion of a chemical element at all, you need to know a solid amount of chemistry (real chemistry, alchemy known for millenia isn't enough here). With this background, the theory of the ancient four elements (specific to the Classical Greek culture and its successors) is just anachronistic. Modern chemistry informed element naming would use some of the following features

  • Number of protons/electrons. This is a blunt but straightforward naming scheme giving us names like unnilhexium for element 106
  • Use periods and/or valency groups. This allows for some creativity (we like it in conlangs) but becomes difficult with the Lanthanides and Actinides

BTW, Fluor is a fireling to me, in Flour atmosphere everything burns (almost, OK).

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