Even if chemistry was never your best subject, some knowledge of the elements and their names will come up while studying a foreign language. I got it in my head to explore of few of the more common terms related to chemistry, and some of the Icelandic words one might encounter that are derived from them.

There’s a great page that has the Periodic Table in Icelandic, in addition to many other languages, with links to Wikipedia where you can see information on all of the elements. The foundational word for this topic is most likely efni (matter) – it will appear in several forms. Also common is the word eindparticle.

efni (n) – matter, substance
singular plural
nom efni efni
acc efni efni
dat efni efnum
gen efnis efna
eind (f) – particle
singular plural
nom eind eindir
acc eind eindir
dat eind eindum
gen eindar einda

From this comes the word for chemistry itself – efnafræði. It also serves as the ending for many of the element names. A few vocabulary words:

efna·tákn n                  chemical symbol
lotu·kerfi n                 periodic table
frum·efni n                  element
frum·eind f                  atom
sam·eind f                   molecule
raf·eind f                   electron
rót·eind f                   proton
nift·eind f                  neutron
efna·hvörf n pl              chemical reaction

The most basic element, I believe the name comes from the same root as water (vatn), just with a vowel shift thrown in.

It’s not hard to see the connection between carbon and the word for coal (kol).

kola·námacoal mine
kola·myrkurpitch black (dark)

And a word formed with the first element mentioned – kol·vetni (carbohydrate)

I don’t know if it’s related to the same root, but there are a couple of words (mainly negative it seems) where the prefix kol- is used as an intensifier:

kol·brjálaður adj – raving mad
kol·vitlaus adj – out of one’s mind

And I have no idea why the word for octopus is kol·krabbi 🙂

If you’re a fan of breathing, you’re familiar with our next element. In order to understand where the Icelandic word comes from you have to explore the root of the prefix oxy-, which derives from a Greek root for sharp, acidic. So we find in Icelandic súrsour, acidic.

súr·deig n – sour dough
súr·mjólk f – sour milk
súrna v (-aði) – turn sour, curdle

You will surely come across the word for aluminum at some point in your study of Icelandic, as there are several smelting plants in Iceland which take advantage of the geo- and hydro- power there. Mainly you will read about the controversy surrounding these plants as it relates to pollution and the threat to Iceland’s environment.

ál·ver n – aluminum plant
ál·pappír m – aluminum (tin) foil

If you’ve been to Iceland you’ve surely come to love the smell of sulfur! Perhaps brennisteinn doesn’t look like sulfur…but what if I said brimstone?! 🙂

As you might expect there are many iron words 🙂

járn·karl m – crowbar
járn·smiður m – blacksmith
járn·öld f – Iron Age
járn·tjald n – Iron Curtain
hand·járn n pl – handcuffs

Of course the word that comes to mind related to lead (even though I don’t think they had lead in them) is

blýantur m – pencil

Icelandic Wikipedia page for Chemistry
Periodic Table in Icelandic