Origin of mineral names




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Perovskite

 

Petalite

Greek petalon = leaf and lithos = stone alluding to its leaflike cleavage

Phenak(c)ite

Greek phenax = to cheat since it was often mistaken for quartz

Phengite

Greek and Latin phengites = shine in reference to its luster

Phillipsite (zeolite)

William Phillips (1775-1829), British mineralogist, founder of the Geological Society of London

Phlogopite

Greek phlogistos = to burn or inflame alluding to its reddish tinge

Phonolite

Greek phone = sound and lithos = stone in reference to its ring when struck with a hammer

Phosphate

Greek for phos = light and phoros = bearer due to its spontaneous combustion; frpm the Latin meaning morning star

Pinnoite

Mt. Pinno, Chief Councellor of Mines, of Halle, Germany

Pirssonite

Louis Valentine Pirsson (1860-1919), American mineralogist at Yale 

Plagioclase

Greek plagios = oblique and klasis = fracture in reference to the oblique angles between its best cleavages

Plumbago

Latin plumbum = lead since graphite was misidentified as galena

Pinite 

 

Polianite

N.A.

Pollucite

Pollux, the twin brother of Castor in Classical mythology, in reference to its association with the mineral castor (old name for petalite)

Polyhalite

Greek polys = much or many and hals = salt due to the component salts

Portland cement

resembles a building stone on the Isle of Portland, Dorset, England 

Portlandite

from Portland cement, locality at the Isle of Portland, Dorset, England, with which the synthetic compound was known to be associated

Potash

from pot and ash, originally prepared by evaporating the lixivium of wood ashes in iron pots (see soda ash)

Pozzalana

locality at Pozzuoli near Mount Vesuvius where a tuff was extracted by the Romans

Praeseodymium

Greek prasios = green and didymos = twin

Priceite

Thomas Price (b. 1837?), Welsh-American mineralogist. A.k.a Pandemite.

Probertite

Frank Holman Probert (1876-1940), Dean of the Mining College, U of Cal. A.k.a. kramerite.

Promethium

Prometheus, a Titan in Greek mythology, who made a man of clay from fire stolen from heaven

Psilomene

Greek psilos = naked, bare and melas = black alluding to its appearance

Pumice

Latin pumex = pumice or porous stone from spuma = foam

Pyrrhotite

Greek for redness aluding to the liveliness of its color

Pyrite

Greek pyrites = flint or millstone from pyros = a fire since it gives off sparks when struck

Pyrochlore

Greek pyros = a fire and chloros = green since it turns green on ignition

Pyrolusite

Greek pyros = a fire and lusite = to wash due to its use to decolorize glass

Pyrope (garnet)

Greek pyr = fire and ops = eye alluding to its fire-red color

Pyrophyllite

Greek for pyro = a fire, phyllo = a leaf, and lithos = stone referring to the effect of heat separating the laminae in foliated varieties

Quartz

Saxon word querkluftertz = cross-vein ore; first condensed to querertz; or West Slavic word kwardy

Ramsdellite

Lewis Stephen Ramsdell (1895-1975), American mineralogist, U of Michigan, Ann Arbor

Rare earths

named by Johann Gadolin as a literal description of a group of elements

Rhodochrosite

Greek rhodochros = rose colored alluding to its color

Rhodonite

Greek rhodon = a rose alluding to its color

Roseki

Japanese for waxy stone referring to its wax-like appearance. 

Roscoelite

Henry Enfield Roscoe (1833-1915), a chemist from Manchester, England, who first to prepared pure vanadium

Ruby

Latin rubeus = red alluding to its color

Rutile

French shining from Latin rutilus = red alluding to its color

Sanbornite

for Frank Sanborn, American mineralogist. Div. Mines, Dept. Natural Resources, CA

Sanidine

Greek sanis (-idos) = a board, a table in reference to the mineral's tabular habit

Salt

Latin sal which originated from the Greek for hals = the sea (see halite)

Samarskite

Vasilii Erafovich Samarski-Bykhovets (1803-1870), of the Russian Corps of Mining Engineers

Saponite

Latin sapo (-idos) = soap for its soaplike appearance

Sapphire

ancient name of uncertain origin; possibly Hebraic sappir and Sanskrit sanipruja; applied by the ancients to lazurite

Sassolite

Sasso, Tuscany, Italy where first observed, Greek lithos = stone

Searlesite

John W. Searles, Californian pioneer; Searles Lake, CA, named for him

Selenite

Greek selenites (lithos) = moon (stone) since it was supposed to wax and wane with the moon and/or it has moon-like white reflections

Sellaite

Quntino Sella (1827-1884), Italian mining engineer and mineralogist

Senarmonite 

Henri Hureau de Sénarmont (1808-1862), French physicist and mineralogist, School of Mines, Paris, who first described the species

Sepiolite

Greek sepion = the bone of the cuttle-fish and lithos = stone since the bone of the cuttle-fish is light and porous like the mineral

Sericite

Greek for silky alluding to its silky luster

Serpentine

Latin serpens = snake because of the similar surface patterns

Shortite

Maxwell Naylor Short (1889-1952), American mineralogist, U of Arizona, and Greek lithos = stone

Siderite

Greek sideros = iron in reference to its composition

Sienna

locality at the town of Sienna in Tuscany, northern Italy

Silica

Latin silex = flint

Sillimanite

Professor Benjamin Silliman (1779-1864), American mineralogist, Yale

Slate

 

Smectite

Greek smektis = fuller's earth from smechein = to wipe off, to cleanse because of its property of extracting grease from cloth (see Fuller's Earth)

Soda

possibly from the name of a mineral that occurs near Djebel es Soda, Libya. Alternatively, the Spanish soda (from the Arabian suvvad = a plant from the ash of which soda was obtained in Sicily and Spain), or from the medieval Latin sodanum = a remedy for headaches (from the Arabic suda = headache).

Soda ash

from soda and ash, originally prepared by evaporating the lixivium of wood ashes in iron pots (see potash) 

Sodalite

from composition, Latin solidus = solid since it was a solid used in glassmaking (see soda ash)

Sodium sulfate

chemical name

Spessartine (garnet)

locality at Spessart in northwestern Bavaria, Germany

Sphalerite

Greek for trecherous or slippery since it was often mistaken for galena but yielded no lead

Sphene

Greek for wedge due to characteristic habit of the crystals 

Spinel

Latin spinella = little thorn referring to its spine-shaped octahedral crystals

Spodumene

Greek spodoun = to reduce to ashes refers either to its ash-gray color or the ash-colored mass formed when heated before the blowpipe

Stassfurtite

locality at Stassfurt, Germany, where it is associated with potash. A.k.a. boracite

Staurolite

Greek stauros = a cross and lithos = stone because of its common cruciform twins

Steatite

Greek steatos = suet

Stibiconite 

Greek stimmi and Latin stibium = antimony and Greek for powder or dust, because it often occurs as a powder

Stibnite

Greek stimmi and Latin stibium = old names for antimony

Strontianite

locality at Strontian, a small town in Argyllshire, Scotland

Suanite

locality at Suan County, Korea

Sulfur

Latin sulfur, an old name; akin to Sanskrit sulvere

Sulphohalite

from composition, a sulfate with the halogen elements Cl and F

Suzorite

locality at Suzor Township near Boucherville, Quebec, Canada (phlogopite mica)

Sylvite

old chemical name Sal digestivus Sylvii or digestive salt of Francois Sylvius de la Boë (1614-1672), Dutch chemist and physician of Leyden

Syngenite

Greek syn = with, together with, or related to in reference to its similarity to polyhalite

Szaibelyite

Stephan Szaibely (1777-1855), Hungarian mine surveyor of Rézbánya. A.k.a. ascherite

Talc

Arabic talq

Tamarugite

locality at Tamarugal, Pampa, Chile

Tanzanite

locality at Tanzania, Africa

Tephroiite

Greek for ash-colored due to its color

Teruggite

Mario E. Teruggi, geologist, Universitatd Nacional La Plata, Argentina

Thenardite

Louis Jacques Thénard (1777-1857), French chemist, U of Paris

Thermonatrite

Greek therme = heat and natron = soda since it forms from drying soda

Thorium

Thor, Scandinavian god of thunder and lightening in reference to its use in energy

Thulite

Thule, the ancient name of Scandinavia

Tincal

Sanskrit tincal or Malay tingkal = borax. A.k.a. borax.

Tincalconite

Sanskrit tincal = borax and Greek konis = dust or powder; the fact it can form from the dehydration of borax A.k.a. mohavite.

Titanium/ titanium dioxide

Latin Titani and Greek Titanes = a Titan, in Greek mythology any one of twelve children of Uranus ( Heaven) and Gaea (Earth); denotes strength

Todorokite

locality at the Todoroki mine, Hokkaido, Japan

Topaz

from the Greek Topazion, an island in the Red Sea, meaning to seek since the island was often covered in mist

Toseki

Japanese meaning "stones used for pocelain raw material (pottery stone)

Tourmaline

Singhalese turamali = originally applied to zircon and other gems by jewelers in Sri Lanka

Tremolite

locality at Tremola Valley, near St. Gotthard, Switzerland, and Greek lithos = stone

Tridymite

Greek tridymos = threefold since the crystals are often trillings

Tripoli

locality at Tripoli, Libya, in North Africa

Trona

Arabic name of the native salt

Tsavolite

locality at Tsavo National Park, Kenya , first discovered, and Greek lithos = stone

Tunellite

George Tunell (1900- ), American geochemist, U of California, Los Angeles

Turquoise

Old French turqueise = Turkish as stones came to Europe from Persia via Turkey

Tychite

in Greek mythology Tyche = the Goddess of Chance alluding to the fact that two tychite crystals in a stock of 5,000 northupite crystals were the first and the last to be found

Tysonite

S.T. Tyson who collected and supplied the specimens in the original study

Ulexite

George Ludwig Ulex (1811-1883), German chemist and first observer

Umber

locality at the Umbria idistrict of Italy or possibly Latin umbra = a shade or shadow

Uralborite

locality at Ural Mountains in the former USSR and its borate content

Uvarovite (garnet)

Count Sergei Semeonovich Uvarov (1786-1855), Russian nobleman, Imperial Academy of St. Petersburg

Valentinite

Basilius Valentinus (pseudonym for Johannes Thölde), German alchemist working on the properties of antimony in the late 17th and early 18th century.

Vanthoffite

Jacobus Hendricus van 'tHoff (1852-1911), Dutch physical chemist

Veatchite

Dr. John A. Veatch who first discovered boracic acid in northern Californian springs

Vermiculite

Latin vermiculare = to breed worms alluding to its appearance after exfoliation and Greek lithos = stone

Vernadite 

Vladimir Ivanovich Vernadskii (1863-1945), Russian naturalist and geochemist

Vesuvianite

locality at Mt. Vesuvius, Italy, where it was found in ejected blocks

Villiaumite

French explorer Villiaume who brought the specimen from Guinea

Vonsenite 

Magnus Vonsen (1879-1954), American mineral collector of Petaluma, CA, who was interested in borate minerals. A.k.a. paigeite. 

Wad

provincial English word for black, soft powders of unknown origin

Wairakite

locality at Wairakei in the central part of the North Island, New Zealand

Wardite

Henry Augustus Ward (1834-1906), American naturalist, Rochester, NY

Wavellite

William Wavell (d.1829), English physician, Horwood Parish, Devon, UK, and Greek lithos = stone

Wegscheiderite

Rudolph Wegscheider, chemist who formed the compound synthetically

Witherite

William Withering (1741-1799), English physician, botanist & mineralogist

Wollastonite

William Hyde Wollaston (1766-1828), English chemist and mineralogist

Xenotime

Greek xenos = foreign, a stranger and time = to honor alluding to the fact that crystals are small and rare, and were long unnoticed; originally mispelled kenotime, Greek for vain and to honor

Ytterbium/yttrium

locality at Ytterby, Sweden

Zeolites

Greek zein = to boil and lithos = stone (i.e. boiling stones)

Zinnwaldite

locality at Zinnwald, Bohemia, itself named for the local tin (German Zinn) veins

Zircon

from Arabic zarqun, derived from the Persian zar = gold and gun = color

Zoisite

Siegmund Zois, Baron von Edelstein (1747-1819), Austrian scholar





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