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The symbol for the element lanthanum.
The symbol for lanthanum.
(La), chemical element, rare-earth metal of transition Group IIIb of the periodic table, prototype of the lanthanoid series of elements. Lanthanum is a ductile and malleable, silvery-white metal, soft enough to be cut with a knife. The element was discovered as the oxide (lanthana) in 1839 by Carl Gustaf Mosander, who distinguished it from cerium oxide (ceria). Its name is derived from the Greek lanthanein, meaning "to be concealed," indicating that it is difficult to isolate