From Wiktionary, the free dictionary
Jump to navigation Jump to search


Latin Wikipedia has an article on:
Wikipedia la


Uncertain. Perhaps ultimately from L M N, first three letters of the second half of the Canaanite alphabet, recited by ancient scribes when learning it (in sense compare English ABC(s) (fundamentals)). This idea has been criticized though due to the absence of any evidence for use of a half-split in the Latin alphabet itself and the lack of evidence for the use of "el", "em", and "en" as letter names in early Latin. An alternative related idea is that elementum was borrowed into Latin from a Semitic term (probably via Egyptian) halaḥama, which derives from the old South Semitic initial character sequence, h-l-ḥ-m..., though this presents some difficulties as well.

Alternatively could be a neologism to translate the equivalent Greek term στοιχεῖον (stoikheîon, element, letter) (introduced in the sense of "element" by Plato), which, like the Latin elementum, has the dual meaning of "element" and "letter". This neologism would be modelled on and alluding to alimentum (nourishment), modified to be a mnemonic for the sequence of letters "L M N"; this would make it related to alere (to nourish), olēscere (to grow), both from Proto-Indo-European *h₂el-.[1]

A further suggestion is that the word may have been derived from an unattested *elepantum for a letter made of ivory (i.e., a toy letter for the purpose of learning to read), an old loanword from Ancient Greek ἐλέφας (eléphas, elephant) or its accusative ἐλέφαντα (eléphanta).[2] This could explain the otherwise irregular -e- in the second syllable.



elementum n (genitive elementī); second declension

  1. (chemistry, physics) one of four elements that composed the world.
  2. basic principle, rudiment
  3. (in the plural) the alphabet

Usage notes[edit]

Most often used in the plural to refer collectively to the components.


Second-declension noun (neuter).

Case Singular Plural
Nominative elementum elementa
Genitive elementī elementōrum
Dative elementō elementīs
Accusative elementum elementa
Ablative elementō elementīs
Vocative elementum elementa


Related terms[edit]



  • elementum”, in Charlton T. Lewis and Charles Short (1879) A Latin Dictionary, Oxford: Clarendon Press
  • elementum”, in Charlton T. Lewis (1891) An Elementary Latin Dictionary, New York: Harper & Brothers
  • elementum in Charles du Fresne du Cange’s Glossarium Mediæ et Infimæ Latinitatis (augmented edition with additions by D. P. Carpenterius, Adelungius and others, edited by Léopold Favre, 1883–1887)
  • elementum in Gaffiot, Félix (1934) Dictionnaire illustré latin-français, Hachette.
  • Carl Meißner; Henry William Auden (1894) Latin Phrase-Book[1], London: Macmillan and Co.
    • the elements: elementa; initia or principia rerum
    • the elements and first beginnings: elementa et tamquam semina rerum
    • to teach children the rudiments: pueros elementa (prima) docere
    • to receive the first elements of a liberal education: primis litterarum elementis imbui
    • the alphabet: litterae, elementa
  • elementum in Ramminger, Johann (2016 July 16 (last accessed)) Neulateinische Wortliste: Ein Wörterbuch des Lateinischen von Petrarca bis 1700[2], pre-publication website, 2005-2016
  • Meyer, Leo (1878) “Elementum”, in Beiträge zur Kunde der indogermanischen Sprachen (in German), volume 2, Göttingen: Robert Peppmüller, pages 86–107
  1. ^ https://blog.oup.com/2007/10/element_hocus_pocus/
  2. ^ Wolfgang Pfeifer, editor (1993), “Element”, in Etymologisches Wörterbuch des Deutschen (in German), 2nd edition, Berlin: Akademie-Verlag, →ISBN