Love words? Sign up for our Word of the Day!
1868, coined from Greek helios "sun" (see sol), because the element was detected in the solar spectrum during the eclipse of Aug. 18, 1868, by English astronomer Sir Joseph N. Lockyer (1836-1920) and English chemist Sir Edward Frankland (1825-1899). It was not actually obtained until 1895; it was assumed before that to be an alkali metal, hence the ending in -ium.
helium he·li·um (hē'lē-əm)
An inert gaseous element occurring in natural gas and used as a component of artificial atmospheres and laser media. Atomic number 2; atomic weight 4.0026; boiling point -268.9°C; density at 0°C 0.1785 gram per liter.
A very lightweight, colorless, odorless element in the noble gas group. Helium occurs in natural gas, in radioactive ores, and in small amounts in the atmosphere. It has the lowest boiling point of any substance and is the second most abundant element in the universe. Helium is used to provide lift for balloons and blimps and to create artificial air that will not react chemically. Atomic number 2; atomic weight 4.0026; boiling point -268.9°C; density at 0°C 0.1785 gram per liter. See Periodic Table.
Our Living Language : The second most abundant element in the universe after hydrogen, Helium (symbol He) is a colorless, odorless, nonmetallic gas that is produced abundantly by the nuclear fusion in all stars and is found in smaller amounts on Earth. It was discovered by the British scientist—and founding editor of the journal Nature—Joseph Norman Lockyer in 1868, while he was studying a solar eclipse with a spectroscope, an instrument that breaks light up into a spectrum. If an element is heated up enough to glow, the emitted light produces a unique spectrum when refracted through a prism. Lockyer noticed that the spectrum of the Sun's corona, which is visible only during a solar eclipse, contained lines produced by an unknown element. He named the element helium from helios, the Greek word for "sun." Helios gives us many other words pertaining to the Sun, such as heliocentric and perihelion.
Note: Helium is the best known of the inert gases.
Note: Because it is lighter than air, helium is used to fill balloons.