Place name of the week: Strontian - Sròn an t-Sìthein

A flask of strontium oxide. The element strontium was discovered in the Lochaber village of Strontian.

A flask of strontium oxide. The element strontium was discovered in the Lochaber village of Strontian.

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The place-name Strontian (Stroninshen in 1685) is famous for having a lead mine in which the element strontium was first identified in 1790 by two scientists, Adair Crawford and William Cruikshank

The element strontium was of course coined from the place-name Strontian. Sròn an t-Sìthein means ‘the nose-shaped hill of the fairy mound’. Sròn is literally ‘nose’ in Gaelic but has also come to mean a ‘nose-shaped hill’ or ‘headland’ when used in place-names. Sìthean is related to the word sìth a ‘mound or hill in which fairies were thought to live’ and which is found in Gaelic na daoine-sìthe ‘the fairies’, bean-sìthe ‘female fairy’ (so English banshee) and sìthiche ‘fairy’.

Through the discovery of strontium at this site, this name has been borrowed into all the languages of the world in which the periodic table is used. In Japanese, for example, strontium is sutoronchiumu.

For more information visit www.ainmean-aite.org

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