Aluminum VS. Aluminium: What is The Difference?

Explore the fascinating journey of aluminum, from its early identification as alum in medieval times to the modern-day debate over its nomenclature. Uncover how historical discoveries and naming conventions shaped this versatile metal's identity.

Table of Contents

Origin and History of Aluminum and Aluminium

aluminium vs aluminum
aluminium vs aluminum

Early References and Nomenclature

Alum, a compound known since the Middle Ages, is the earliest mention of what would be called aluminum later. The term “alumine” was introduced by the French chemist Louis-Bernard Guyton de Morveau in 1761 to denote the alkali metal of alum. Sir Humphry Davy was an important chemical Englishman. He named it “alumium” in 1808, first. and in 1812 this was renamed by him as “aluminum.”

The Discovery and Isolation of the Metal

While alum was an early component, pure aluminum metal wasn’t isolated until later. Friedrich Wohler published the paper in 1827. This was after he successfully made the element using potassium and dry aluminum chloride. This was a continuation of the earlier, unsuccessful, experiments of Hans Christian Orsted and Sir Humphry Davy.

Standardization of the Name

The name “aluminum” was proposed by Davy in his 1812 publication and it was in agreement with his other element names like sodium and magnesium which ends with “-ium”. Though, the alternate spelling “aluminum” was applied to this rule by the other scientists. In 1828, the word “aluminum” made its way into the American dictionary compiled by Noah Webster. The question of which name to use was discussed until the IUPAC (International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry) made a decision in 1990 to standardize “aluminium”. However, the American Chemical Society (ACS) added the ‘aluminum’ element in 1925.

What is the Difference Between Aluminum and Aluminium?

Geographic Variations in Spelling

The primary difference between “aluminum” and “aluminium” lies in their geographical usage. In North America, “aluminum” is the preferred spelling, whereas “aluminium” is used in British English and other regions outside North America. This distinction highlights a regional preference in the English language.

Historical Context of Naming

The element was initially named “alumium” by Sir Humphry Davy and later changed to “aluminum”. However, it was British scientists who altered it to “aluminium” to align with other elements like sodium and magnesium that Davy had named. This led to a divergence in the accepted nomenclature across different regions.

Adoption by Scientific Communities

In 1925, the American Chemical Society officially adopted “aluminum”. Conversely, in 1990, the International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry (IUPAC) endorsed “aluminium” as the international standard. This reflects differing institutional preferences that have further solidified the regional variations in the term’s spelling.

Linguistic Consistency

The spelling “aluminum” is more consistent with the majority of other elemental names that end in “-ism,” such as helium, lithium, and magnesium. This consistency is preferred in scientific writing and publications, even in regions where “aluminum” is commonly used.

Which Term to Use: Aluminum or Aluminium?

aluminum or aluminium
aluminum or aluminium

The question of whether to use “aluminum” or “aluminium” depends largely on your location. In North America, “aluminum” is the standard term, reflecting the usage established by the American Chemical Society (ACS). In many other English-speaking countries, such as the United Kingdom, “aluminium” is the preferred spelling. This is as per the rules of the International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry (IUPAC).

Spelling and Scientific Standards

While both “aluminum” and “aluminium” are recognized and correct, the IUPAC includes both spellings on its periodic table, highlighting their interchangeability. However, the choice between these spellings can reflect one’s adherence to either American or British English conventions.

Cultural and Linguistic Preferences

Ultimately, the choice between “aluminum” and “aluminium” might boil down to personal or regional linguistic preferences. This flexibility in nomenclature allows for variations based on what sounds more appropriate or familiar to the user, a liberty that has historical roots in the element’s naming.


The tale of aluminum’s evolution reflects the intricate dance between scientific discovery and linguistic tradition. Whether you prefer “aluminum” or “aluminium,” the story behind this lightweight metal is as layered as its applications in technology and industry.


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