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Hanja Lesson 44: 銀, 銅, 鐵, 炭, 素

In this lesson, you will learn five characters relating to metals and elements on the periodic table.

銀 = 은 = silver, money
(Korean name: 은 은)

This character and the next two in this lesson can easily be distinguished from other characters by the the 金 radical you can find on the left. This can also help you distinguish their meanings. As you know, 金 refers to the metal gold. These three characters also refer to a specific metal!

銀 = silver
銀價 = the price of silver
銀行 = bank
銀하 = galaxy
銀하水 = Milky Way Galaxy
銀메달 = silver medal

I am a chemistry teacher, so I find this particularly amusing. The element Mercury is a metal, but it is a liquid at room temperature, which is where it gets its nickname Quicksilver. The name for Mercury in Korean is 水銀.

銅 = 동 = copper, bronze
(Korean name: 구리 동)

Notice again the 金 radical indicating this denotes some form of metal. The other radical being 同 which is often found in characters pronounced as “동.” If you’re wondering how one character can represent seemingly three different metals  – copper, brass and bronze – this is because brass and bronze are composed mostly of copper.

銅 = copper
청銅 = bronze
銅錢 = coin (isn’t that cool!)
銅메달 = bronze medal

鐵= 철 = iron
(Korean name: 쇠 철)

鐵 = iron
鐵分 = iron (usually as a mineral that one eats)
電鐵 = metro
鐵道 = railroad
地下鐵  = subway
강鐵 = steel

炭 = 탄 = carbon
(Korean name: 숯 탄)

You might be thinking that you don’t need to know the character for carbon, but it shows up in a wide variety of situations!

炭化 = carbonization
木炭 = charcoal
炭水化物 = carbohydrate
석炭 = coal
炭광 = coal mine
炭산水 = carbonated water
一산化炭소 = carbon monoxide
二산化炭소 = carbon dioxide

素 = 소 = element, origin, properties
(Korean name: 본디 소)

This character has many meanings. It is used in the names of many elements on the periodic table, which is why I included it in this lesson. For example, Hydrogen got its name because of it is a component of water (“Hydro” means water in Greek). Thus, the Korean name for Hydrogen is 水素.

I guess I’m biased in my opinion as to how useful some of these words are. However, in my opinion, if you’re heading towards fluency in any language, you’ll almost certainly need to know the names of these most commonly mentioned elements.

Chemistry Related Uses:
= element
水素 = Hydrogen
炭素 = Carbon
질素 = Nitrogen
산素 = Oxygen
= Fluorine
= Silicon
= Chlorine
一산化炭 = carbon monoxide
二산化炭 = carbon dioxide

Other Uses:
素數 = prime number
平素 = usually, normally
색素 = pigment