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Fun for a Weekday: Wordplay with the Periodic Table

Team TFS
Team TFS
shutterstock_303285722While pondering what to do for a fun lunchtime quiz at our recent UK trace elemental analysis User Meeting at the Jodrell Bank Discovery Centre near Macclesfield, Cheshire (home of the iconic Lovell Telescope - my eye was drawn to a Periodic Table lying on top of a haphazard pile of papers on my desk. As I looked at it, I recalled a conversation with one of our iCAP 7000 users in which she pointed out various words you could construct using the symbols of the Periodic Table. Rather than heading straight to the internet to see what others had come up with, I thought I’d test myself first. After a couple of hour’s head-scratching, with the odd revelation here and there, my first attempt at a quiz emerged. Feeling satisfied with the result, I continued reviewing the arrangements for the user meeting and immediately realized that, as it was a 2-day event with some attendees joining both days, I’d need a second quiz.

At that point, I headed straight for the internet to see what others had come up with.

Constructing words from Periodic Table symbols would appear to be quite a popular exercise (see the links below) and it generates some interesting results. For example, if you take the liberty of including the symbols D (for deuterium) and T (for tritium), did you know that there are (at least) two words that can be constructed that contain twenty three letters (INTERSUBSTITUTABILITIES, meaning the ability of people or objects to be substituted between different e.g. locations) and NONREPRESENTATIONALISMS, meaning practices of art that are not based on representational (i.e. based on a real item or person) art, apparently. And who would have known that the longest word you can construct using just single letter element symbols is the seventeen-letter PHOTOCONDUCTIVITY? For the record, the longest word that can be made using the two letter symbols is IRREPRESSIBILITIES (18 letters). At the other end of the scale, there are a few, oft-used four letter words that can also be constructed, but I shall leave the subject there!

Now armed with an abundant source of possible words, I set about generating a second quiz for the user meeting and while doing so discovered that THERMO FISHER can also be generated from the Periodic Table symbols. If I ever discover an element, I’ll give it the symbol En just so that I can construct SCIENTIFIC as well!

If you’d like to have a go at the quizzes, I’ve attached them below. Each square in the quiz grids contains one letter so that, for example, the answer to 'A popular household pet' would be written as C A t (using the symbols for carbon (C) and astatine (At)). To help you out, I've listed all the symbols that are used in the answers at the bottom of each grid. If you work out all the answers, let me know by commenting on this post. I’d also be interested to hear your suggestions for other words that can be generated from the Periodic Table symbols. Have fun!

Periodic Table Quiz 1

Periodic Table Quiz 2


Additional Resources

More words based on the Periodic Table symbols and other interesting facts about these words can be found at:,

If all this talk of elements has piqued your curiosity about elemental analysis, you can find out how we do this at