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Original scientific paper

Franjo Rački’s Croatian names of chemical elements in 1853

Dubravka Ivšić ; Institut za hrvatski jezik i jezikoslovlje, Zagreb, Hrvatska
Trpimir Ivšić ; Institut Ruđer Bošković, Zagreb, Hrvatska

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Full text: english pdf 403 Kb

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Franjo Rački (1828–1894) is known as a historian, philosopher, linguist, politician and the first president of the Yugoslav Academy of Sciences and Arts. A rather unknown fact is that for a short period of time he also studied natural sciences at the University of Vienna and that physics and chemistry are among the topics of several of his papers. One of his early papers entitled “Pokus narodno-lučbenog nazivlja” (“A Trial of National Chemical Terminology”) was published in 1853. In that paper Rački discusses the importance of scientific terminology, whether chemical terminology should be completely national and whether international terms should be adapted to the Croatian language or used in their original form. The main part of that paper comprises Rački’s proposal of Croatian names for most of the chemical elements known at time.
Rački’s Croatian names of chemical elements are analyzed in this paper from both an etymological (how are the names formed, from which languages they are borrowed or adapted) and, where applicable, a chemical point of view (if the name is consistent with chemical characteristics of element). Rački’s names are compared to better known Croatian names proposed by Bogoslav Šulek (from 1874) as well as to contemporary Croatian names of chemical elements.
Out of the 48 names of chemical elements which were proposed by F. Rački, 29 of them were created on the model of Czech names, 10 of them are original Rački’s creations, 8 of them are older folk names and one of them is a loanword (platina). Rački formed the names of elements according to the principles he established: where possible, Croatian word was used as the basis, and where it was not possible, foreign word was kept (cinjak, cirkonjak, itrenjak, paladnjak, strontjak, titnjak). The names were systematically formed with the suffix -njak (with variants -jak, -ak, -enjak, -evnjak).
None of Rački’s names of chemical elements have become a standard Croatian name and they were even not used in science textbooks in the 2nd half of the 19th century. However, Rački’s names are the first methodical effort to give the chemical elements Croatian names and therefore a valuable contribution to the history of Croatian chemistry and Croatian chemical terminology.


Franjo Rački, Croatian names of chemical elements, beginnings of Croatian scientific terminology, chemical elements in 19th c

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