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What is an element?

 An element is a pure substance that can be separated into anything more simpler by physical or chemical means.

The word element comes from the word elemental which means basic or fundamental. Elements are the building blocks of all matter and are list in the Periodic table of elements.

Each element is given a one or two letter chemical symbol which represents a shorthand way of that element.

The first letter of a chemical symbol is always a capitol. If the symbol for the element has two symbols the second letter is always lower case. Some elements are named after their Latin names like sodium, symbol Na, Latin name natrium.

Examples of elements and their chemical symbols.

Element Chemical symbol Comment
Hydrogen  H  The lightest of all elements
Helium  He  A light inert or unreactive gas
Nitrogen  N  Makes up 79% of the atmosphere by volume
Oxygen  O  Essential for life
Chlorine  Cl  A pale green gas
Iron  Fe  Ferous in Latin
Tungsten  W Wolfram in medival German
Copper  Cu  Cuprous in Latin
Silver  Ag  Argentum in Latin
Gold  Au  Aurum in Latin

Elements can be divided into three groups, metals, semi-metals or metalloids and non-metals.e properties.

Metals Non-metals
Good conductor of electricity Poor conductor of electricity
Good conductor of heat Poor conductor of heat
Lustrous or shiny in appearance Dull in appearnace
Malleable and ductile Brittle

 The word malleable means "it can be beaten into shape". A panel beater may repair the damage to the metal in an automobile by beating it back into shape. The word 'ductile' means can be drawn out into a wire as in electrical wires.

Semi metals which are also called metalloids have properties common to both metals and non-metals. For example the element silicon conducts an electric current and is brittle.