silver-white metallic element, 1804, coined in Modern Latin by its discoverer, English chemist Smithson Tennant (1761-1815) from Greek iris (genitive iridos) "rainbow" (see iris) + chemical ending -ium. So called "from the striking variety of colours which it gives while dissolving in marine acid" [Tennant]
Entries linking to iridium
late 14c. as the name of a flowering plant (Iris germanica); early 15c. in reference to the eye membrane, from Latin iris (plural irides) "iris of the eye; iris plant; rainbow," from Greek iris (genitive iridos) "a rainbow;" also "iris plant" and "iris of the eye," a word of uncertain origin, traditionally derived from PIE root *wei- "to bend, turn, twist."
Iris was the name of the minister and messenger of the Olympian gods (especially of Hera), visibly represented by the rainbow (which was regarded as the descent of a celestial messenger). From the oldest parts of the Iliad the word is used of both the messenger and the rainbow.
The eye region was so called (early 15c. in English) for being the part that gives color to the eye; the Greek word was used of any brightly colored circle, "as that round the eyes of a peacock's tail" [Liddell & Scott]. Another sense in Middle English was "prismatic rock crystal." Related: Iridian; iridine.
also weiə-, Proto-Indo-European root meaning "to turn, twist, bend," with derivatives referring to suppleness or binding.
It is the hypothetical source of/evidence for its existence is provided by: Avestan vaeiti- "osier;" Greek itea "willow," iris "rainbow;" Latin viere "to bend, twist," vitis "vine;" Lithuanian vytis "willow twig;" Old Irish fiar, Welsh gwyr "bent, crooked;" Polish witwa, Welsh gwden "willow," Russian vitvina "branch, bough;" Old English wir "metal drawn out into a fine thread."
updated on January 19, 2016