What's a generic noun (single word or multi-word term) for referring to the bulk material of pure chemical elements?

I am talking about H2, O2, lead, diamond, graphene, etc, but not chemical elements, i.e. the atoms of hydrogen, lead, carbon, etc.

Just like "chemical compound" is an umbrella word for water, CO2, etc. etc., what is the umbrella word for substances that is composed of a pure chemical element?

4 Answers 4


from wikipedia

Chemical element is a pure chemical substance consisting of one type of atom.

In the above sentence the term is used for the bulk material, not only for the type of atom.

  • 2
    Yeah actually I tend to agree with this: I think that's exactly what "element" means. If you wanted to emphasize a specific bulk, I might combine them as "elemental mass".
    – devios1
    Jul 19, 2011 at 16:31

I think you're looking for molecule.


molecule noun The smallest unit (usually consisting of a group of atoms) into which a substance can be divided while still retaining the substance's chemical qualities.

A molecule of oxygen is O2, the same for chlorine, hydrogen, etc.

It can also refer to compounds like CO2, etc. But I don't think there is a word that excludes such substances.

  • I believe he's looking for a term for a bulk of a material... i.e. the opposite of a single molecule.
    – devios1
    Jul 19, 2011 at 16:30
  • @chaiguy Yeah, I wasn't sure which part was more important, the O_2 or the bulk Jul 19, 2011 at 16:37
  • Both are important. Bulk material of a pure element. Maybe it has to be "chemical elements" as Unreason suggested that Wikipedia defines so. Although i keep thinking "chemical element" is degenerate in referring to both the bulk material and the atom, depending on the context.
    – Computist
    Jul 19, 2011 at 17:00
  • @Computist: There is no degeneracy. An element is always a substance, never an atom. An oxygen atom is not an element, it is an atom of the element oxygen.
    – user1635
    Jul 20, 2011 at 1:41

Mass is usually used for a bulk of a solid or liquid. Volume could be used for gas, or also liquid.

  • NO, I'm not talking about referring to the instance. What I really want is an umbrella word for the examples I gave. Just like chemical compound is an umbrella word for water, CO_2, etc. etc.
    – Computist
    Jul 19, 2011 at 16:15
  • Ah I see. A word that specifically means a mass of a single-element...
    – devios1
    Jul 19, 2011 at 16:18

You can use the word reagent to indicate a high purity chemical.

(Note that the word reagent, in this context, is short for reagent-grade compound/substance. In other words, a reagent doesn't necessarily indicate a chemical that is intended for use in bringing about a chemical reaction.)

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