Would the character for it involve the radicals for "metal", "sun", and "source"? The few references to it I've seen all use only katakana.

Would such a character have an "archaic" reading of something like ひもとがね in the fashion that 鉄 has the archaic reading of くろがね?


5 Answers 5


All elements that do not have their own native Japanese word, such as oxygen or iron, etc., are just transliterated from the English name (mostly). So nihonium would just be ニホニウム. This is especially the case for the superheavy synthetic elements since they have all been discovered recently and thus would not have their own dedicated word in Japanese.

  • Even though "nihon" (presumably) comes from Japanese word for Japan?
    – user18975
    Commented Dec 7, 2016 at 9:13
  • @Hurkyl Right. See this.
    – naruto
    Commented Dec 7, 2016 at 9:34
  • @Hurkyl Nihonium is indeed named after Japan. Commented Dec 7, 2016 at 10:40
  • 2
    @Earthliŋ They could not use nipponium because this was once a suggested name for technetium. See the last column in this page.
    – naruto
    Commented Dec 7, 2016 at 13:03
  • 2
    @Kurausukun Um, Japanese chemical nomenclature is still built upon mostly-German-like transliteration convention and it sounds like English or other only when proper names involve: compare シーボーギウム and コペルニシウム. Commented Dec 8, 2016 at 12:20

Chinese continues to create Kanji for newly discovered elements. You should refer to the Chinese character for any new element if you want to write it using Kanji. For Nihonium the Chinese character has been set as 鉨 (pinyin: nǐ).


Unlike Chinese, modern foreign words are rarely transliterated into kanji. Because Nihonium is not a Japanese word in origin (though Nihon is indeed Japan, adding the suffix of -ium makes it a foreign word), and therefore written in katakana. There are some words, as you point out, like 鉄 that have alternate readings, and words for elements which were used prior to an awareness of the periodic table of elements, or the modern practice of transliterating ALL foreign words to katakana, and ARE written in kanji. だから日本語はおもしろい!

  • 2
    Note that names of chemical elements aren't proper nouns in English, so aren't capitalized unless they're the first word of a sentence. Commented Dec 7, 2016 at 14:58

There won't be new kanji for the elements in Japanese.

For Chinese, however, there's a call on naming (and writing) the new elements by the China National Committee for Terms in Sciences and Technologies.

From the Babelfish:

( 1) According to the principle of creating new words as little as possible, Make the word, try to use the existing ancient word.
( 2 ) selection or new Chinese characters should be in line with national norms.
( 3 ) to meet the shape of the characters as the main character writing features to reflect the nature of the element, pronunciation close to the international naming. ( 4 ) to avoid the same name with the previous elements, to avoid the use of polyphonic. ( 5 ) the use of simplified characters, to avoid using weird words, use less strokes of the word.
( 6 ) In order to avoid ambiguity, word selection should try to avoid the life of common words and has been used as other industry-specific Chinese characters.
( 7 ) as far as possible the use of simple and uncompromising words, in order to facilitate the cross-strait and the Chinese circle of scientific and technical terms of unity.

Taiwan may or may not find their own names and characters.


I think if they did have a word for nihonium, it be 日本イウム, as 日本 is Japan and イウム is ium. But this is just what I think personally.

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