late 15c., as a hypothetical indivisible extremely minute body, the building block of the universe, from Latin atomus (especially in Lucretius) "indivisible particle," from Greek atomos "uncut, unhewn; indivisible," from a- "not" (see a- (3)) + tomos "a cutting," from temnein "to cut" (from PIE root *tem- "to cut"). An ancient term of philosophical speculation (in Leucippus, Democritus); revived scientifically 1805 by British chemist John Dalton. In late classical and medieval use also a unit of time, 22,560 to the hour. Atom bomb is from 1945 as both a noun and a verb; compare atomic.
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