isotope i·so·tope (ī'sə-tōp')
One of two or more atoms having the same atomic number but different mass numbers.
|isotope (ī'sə-tōp') Pronunciation Key
One of two or more atoms that have the same atomic number (the same number of protons) but a different number of neutrons. Carbon 12, the most common form of carbon, has six protons and six neutrons, whereas carbon 14 has six protons and eight neutrons. Isotopes of a given element typically behave alike chemically. With the exception of hydrogen, elements found on Earth generally have the same number of protons and neutrons; heavier and lighter isotopes (with more or fewer neutrons) are often unstable and undergo radioactive decay.
In physics, different forms of the same element, with nuclei that have the same number of protons but different numbers of neutrons. Isotopes are distinguished from each other by giving the combined number of protons and neutrons in the nucleus. For example, uranium 235 is the isotope of uranium that has 235 protons and neutrons in its nucleus rather than the more commonly occurring 238. All elements have isotopes.