Neodymium magnets have a formula of Nd2Fe14B, but why are they called neodymium magnets? There are more iron atoms, and iron makes up over half of the mass of a neodymium magnet. Why isn't it called something like ferroneodymium magnet instead?

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    $\begingroup$ 'A rose by any other name would smell as sweet' - Shakespeare. Names of materials can be arbitrary. Metal organic frameworks (another class of compounds) have names after universities. $\endgroup$
    – ACR
    Commented Jun 12, 2022 at 13:22
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    $\begingroup$ Putting iron or ferro into names would bring very little information. Neodymium is the essential part at functionality and information level. $\endgroup$
    – Poutnik
    Commented Jun 12, 2022 at 13:29
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    $\begingroup$ If there were common neodymium magnets without iron... $\endgroup$
    – Mithoron
    Commented Jun 12, 2022 at 13:39
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    $\begingroup$ Consider also "Chromoly" steel, which is more iron than chrome or molybenum, but the chromium and molybenum content is primarily what distinguishes it from other steels. $\endgroup$
    – Andrew
    Commented Jun 12, 2022 at 14:14
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    $\begingroup$ Previously asked in Physics.SE: physics.stackexchange.com/questions/83810/… $\endgroup$ Commented Jun 13, 2022 at 2:25

1 Answer 1


As Poutink already stated in the comments that Neodymium is the essential functionality. And quoting from Wikipedia,

The neodymium atom can have a large magnetic dipole moment because it has 4 unpaired electrons in its electron structure as opposed to (on average) 3 in iron.

This actually suggests that neodymium plays an important role in magnetic properties of these magnets and probably they are called neodymium magnets.

I can give a clear intuition on this if you have some basic knowledge in organic chemistry. Consider the compound $\ce{C2H5OH}$,ethyl alcohol. In this compound it has lesser percentage of oxygen than hydrogen and carbon. So why don't we say it simply a hydrocarbon rather than naming alcohol? This is because of the functional group $\ce{-OH}$, which characterizes the molecule's physical and chemical properties.

  • $\begingroup$ I sort of understand now, so do you mean it is named after the element(s) that give it its function, instead of naming it by element composition? $\endgroup$ Commented Jun 12, 2022 at 18:51
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    $\begingroup$ Yes in this case. If we had named according to the percentages then there will be no difference between this magnet and an ordinary iron one. $\endgroup$
    – Infinite
    Commented Jun 13, 2022 at 7:38
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    $\begingroup$ One thing to be discussed is we don't always name them simply by the functional substance. Sometimes we will observe an unexpected naming. See the Oscar's suggestion in the comments. And another simple example of such naming is "lead pencils" which actually have no lead in it! $\endgroup$
    – Infinite
    Commented Jun 13, 2022 at 7:41
  • $\begingroup$ The example "lead pencils" is inaccurate because pencil leads used to be out of lead. $\endgroup$ Commented Jun 15, 2022 at 18:31
  • $\begingroup$ That's what I am saying. It is an example for exceptional naming. Re read my comment. $\endgroup$
    – Infinite
    Commented Jun 16, 2022 at 1:23

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