atom [%PREMIUM_LINK%] (āt'əm) Pronunciation Key |
The smallest unit of an element, consisting of at least one proton and (for all elements except hydrogen) one or more neutrons in a dense central nucleus, surrounded by one or more shells of electrons. In electrically neutral atoms, the number of protons equals the number of electrons. Atoms remain intact in chemical reactions except for the removal, transfer, or exchange of certain electrons. Compare compound. See also ion, isotope, orbital.