SYMPOSIA PAPER Published: 01 January 1988

A Terminologist's and a Chemist's Look at Chemical Neologisms


After a brief historical introduction, the creation and development of scientific terms from the linguistics point of view are outlined. The terms “neologism” and “neonym” are defined and their characteristics are listed. After pointing out the basic principles of neonymy, the principal methods of neonymic formation of chemical terms are cited and illustrated by examples taken from recent nomenclature recommendations issued by the International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry (IUPAC), the International Union of Biochemistry (IUB), the World Health Organization (WHO), the International Standards Organization (ISO), and other international organizations. Other examples are taken directly from the chemical literature. Topics represented by these examples include systematic versus trivial names for chemical compounds, names for elements of atomic numbers greater than 100 recommended by IUPAC, names for enzymes recommended by IUB, international nonproprietary names for pharmaceuticals issued by WHO and those of pesticides issued by ISO. Problems arising from words used in ordinary language also having chemical meanings are discussed. In addition, the danger and confusion resulting from assigning new meanings to old terms are illustrated.

Finally, the factors leading to acceptance or rejection of chemical neologisms are examined, again illustrated by a number of case histories. Some conclusions to be kept in mind by future coiners of chemical neologisms are presented.

Author Information

Sonneveld, WB
Vrije Universiteit, Amsterdam, The Netherlands
Loening, KL
Chemical Abstracts Service, Columbus, OH
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Developed by Committee: E02
Pages: 23–28
DOI: 10.1520/STP29546S
ISBN-EB: 978-0-8031-5059-1
ISBN-13: 978-0-8031-1183-7