Elements known to the ancients were given Latin names which were abbreviated. Iron was called Ferrum in Latin which was abbreviated to Fe. Copper was called Cuprum shortened to Cu, etc. More recently discovered elements are usually abbreviated by using the first two letters in the name, for instance Aluminum (Al), Argon (Ar). In some cases, the first and some subsequent letter is used to avoid confusion with another element eg. Arsenic (As). In general, these symbols must be committed to memory.
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