In This National Technical Reports Library page for a 1965 report Method for Coating Actinide Particles in the list of keywords both Uranium compounds and Uraneous oxide are listed.

But I don't find other instances at least in a quick search.

However I did run across the word "uraneous" (or "uranious") in the now retired American musician, singer-songwriter, satirist, and mathematician Tom Lehrer song We Will All Go Together When We Go (short, amusing vintage performance in YouTube).

Note, Lehrer is also the lyricist of The Elements Song (YouTube)

Also, see When The Air Becomes Uranious/Uraneous?

Question: Was "uraneous" an accepted word or "uraneous oxide" an accepted name? Did "uraneous oxide" refer to a specific oxide of uranium or perhaps mixed or unspecified oxides?

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    $\begingroup$ Could it be "uranous" oxide? Google leads me to uranium(IV) oxide, UO2. $\endgroup$ Commented Jun 20, 2021 at 11:10
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    $\begingroup$ (Cont. to my above comment) If we talk about mixed oxides, then $\ce{U3O8}$ is a mixed oxide. However, it is named urano-uranic oxide. (FTR I didn't downvote). $\endgroup$ Commented Jun 21, 2021 at 3:37

1 Answer 1


One of the oldest reputable sources that I managed to find allowing to define what "uraneous oxide" is, was Roscoe's Lessons in Elementary Chemistry [1, p. 253] (strong emphasis mine):


Symbol U, Combining Weight 240, Specific Gravity 18·4.

Uranium is a metal which occurs but sparingly in nature, existing combined in two somewhat rare minerals, pitchblende, $\ce{U3O8},$ and uranite. The metal is of a steel-white colour, and it does not oxidize in dry air at ordinary temperatures, but when strongly heated it burns brilliantly. There are two oxides which form salts, viz., uranous oxide, $\ce{UO2},$ and uranic oxide, $\ce{UO3}$: the uranous salts are green, whilst the uranic compounds are yellow; and these latter solutions give yellow precipitates with an alkali, in which the uranic oxide acts as an acid, forming a uranate of the base; thus with potash we obtain $\ce{K2UO7}.$ The sulphide is an insoluble salt of a vellowish-brown colour. The chief application of uranium compounds is for the purpose of glass-staining; the uraneous oxide imparts a fine black, and the uranic oxide a beautiful yellow, to glass: uranium compounds are also now used in photography.

This brief description was extremely helpful in cleaning up the terminology, i.e. "uraneous oxide" is neither pure $\ce{UO2}$ nor $\ce{U3O8}$ nor $\ce{UO3},$ rather a mix of unspecified oxides. Another hint was that "uraneous oxide" is used to produce black glass, so it's definitely not uranium(IV) oxide or uranyl, which are used for glass tinting with bright colors (yellow/green/orange). This could be uranium(IV) oxide which is dark-brown and appears as black powder en masse; however, I doubt its concentration used in glassblowing is enough to yield rich black color.

On the other hand, there are black uranium minerals like uraninite or pitchblende (the name speaks for itself) composed of $\ce{UO2}$ and its oxidized forms. Oxidation of brown $\ce{UO2}$ at relatively low temperatures yields dark black β-phase nucleated within $\ce{U3O8}$ [2]. An oxygen torch used in glassblowing has the right amount of oxidizing power to partially oxidize uranium(IV) in glass matrix attributing deep-black tint described by Roscoe.

To sum it up, the early definition of "uraneous oxide" was likely a mixture of unspecified uranium(IV–VI) oxides after primary extraction from the ore.

Modern literature doesn't appear to use this term anymore. However, one can use "uraneous oxide" is an umbrella term referring to any class of oxides containing uranium since linguistics permits usage of adjectival suffix -eous for this purpose:

-eous suffix forming adjectives
relating to or having the nature of: gaseous. Compare -ious
[from Latin -eus]

on par with more ubiquitous terms "nitrogeneous" or "hydrogeneous".

"Uraneous oxide" is not an accepted name since it's ambiguous, and, of course, doesn't follow IUPAC recommendations for nomenclature. In the context of nomenclature, it's "erroneous".

As for its use in poetry and songs, I have nothing to add to the following quote by Dickens:

Poetry's unnat'ral; no man ever talked in poetry 'cept a beadle on boxin' day, or Warren's blackin' or Rowland's oil, or some o' them low fellows; never you let yourself down to talk poetry, my boy.

— Charles Dickens, The Pickwick Papers


  1. Roscoe, H. E. Lessons in Elementary Chemistry; Macmillan and Co.: London, 1875. ISBN 978-0-266-15565-2 (reprint).
  2. Alberman, K. B.; Anderson, J. S. S 62. The Oxides of Uranium. J. Chem. Soc. 1949, 303–311. DOI: 10.1039/jr949000s303.
  • $\begingroup$ So, it turns out that uraneous is erroneous. sweet! $\endgroup$
    – uhoh
    Commented Jul 18, 2021 at 13:04
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    $\begingroup$ "Thus with potash we obtain $\ce{K2UO7}$". Typo for $\ce{K2U_{\color{blue}{2}}O7}$, maybe? $\endgroup$ Commented Jul 18, 2021 at 15:12
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    $\begingroup$ @OscarLanzi The source says $\ce{K2UO7}$, probably a typo in the source material indeed. True, a "double" oxide $\ce{K2O · 2UO3},$ i.e. $\ce{K2U2O7},$ would make more sense. $\endgroup$
    – andselisk
    Commented Jul 18, 2021 at 15:19

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