I just finished a year of AP Chem, and I never knew that Group 15 elements are also called pnictogens (one of the few words starting in pn-). You'd think that this would have something to do with the fact that the column starts with nitrogen, and that it's archaic, but think again, because that would make you wrong on both accounts. Pnictogen was coined by the Dutch chemist Anton Eduard van Arkel in the 1950s, based on the Ancient Greek verb pnigein, meaning "to choke" (which is something nitrogen and similar elements can do). The components -ct-, -o-, and -gen all function to modify the overall meaning slightly, and can be disregarded. Because of relatives in other Indo-European language families, we can reconstruct pnigein to a PIE root sounding similarly with about the same definition. Going back to pnictogen, it sometimes takes the form of pnicogen, but that's a bout 2.5 times less common in usage. A pnictide is also a binary compound of a pnicogen, so that's another connection
Hello! I'm Adam Aleksic, a senior studying government and linguistics at Harvard University, where I co-founded the Harvard Undergraduate Linguistics Society. In addition to etymology, I also really enjoy trivia, politics, vexillology, geography, board games, conlanging, art history, and law.