Last updated: 22/01/2017 20:12:11
The chemical symbol for gold AU, taken from the Latin word for Gold.
While the word gold has went through many evolutions that brought us the word we use today, few people realize the extent of its origins. One common question is why the chemical symbol for gold is Au. The answer to this question points us back to the Latin etymological roots of the metal.
In Latin, the word used to describe gold was Aurum, hence the first two letters of the word, Au, have been the noble metals chemical designation. Even in ancient times, gold's look alike was causing problems for prospective fortune seekers so the Latin speaking people of the time coined the phrase "Aurum Nostrum Non Est Aurum Vulgi" which translates to "Our gold is not ordinary gold" or "Our gold is not fools gold" which was a way of saying that their business dealings were fair trades and not dishonest. It may have also been a reference to the mysterious science of alchemy, in which the alchemists were assumed to have been attempting to transform lead into gold. It is believed that the transformation was an allegory for the spiritual transformation of an individual rather than physically changing lead into gold. Thus, the saying may have been a coded reference giving a subtle hint to outsiders that the alchemist aurum was more than just a quest for monetary gains.
It is also to be noted that in the Latin language, aurum was the name for gold but it also had several other connotations. The word could be used to refer to the yellow color of gold, coins made of gold or even gold plated items. We still hold this tradition in our modern language when we use phrases like "golden hair" to describe someone with blonde locks.
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