Allegedly "pentel" is a synonym for "pnictogen," that is, an element of group 15, the nitrogen group. However, I have not been able to find any sources to support the existence of this sense of the word except Wikipedia, Wiktionary, Wikidoc, and these two pages at thoughtco.com by Anne Marie Helmenstine, Ph.D. No other dictionary I've consulted has it, not even the OED. They only mention "pentel" as a certain kind of pen. Helmenstine's article cites

Modern Chemistry (South Carolina). Holt, Rinehart and Winston. Harcourt Education (2009)

but this citation is for the whole article, not specifically for "pentel."

So is this real, or is it a case of citogensis?


2 Answers 2


Use Google Scholar (scholar.google.com/) when needed. All I searched was: pentels pnictogen, and the third search result leads to an article in Angewandte Chemie which in turn leads to the original source of your requested term. There is a footnote in the Angew. Chem. article "A Deltahedral Zintl Ion Now Made in the Solid-state" by Virginie Queneau and Slavi C. Sevov.

Footnote 1 reads

The use of triels, tetrels, and pentels or pnictogens has been suggested by the Commission of Nomenclature of Inorganic Chemistry in the Inorganic Chemistry Division of IUPAC: B. P. Block, W. H. Powell, W. C. Fernelius Inorganic Chemical Nomenclature. Principles and Practice, American Chemical Society, Washington, DC, 1990, p. 24.

I respect the Oxford English Dictionary, but sometimes they are very stubborn in not including some chemical terms, such as banana bonds, and anation (reaction). I suggested several times but it fell on deaf ears.

BTW, the 22-volume OED does have Pentel but not in the chemical sense; it is " A proprietary name for: a type of ballpoint pen typically having a non-metallic tip and a free flow of ink resembling that of a felt-tip pen."


Group 13 and group 14 elements are trivially called triels and tetrels respectively (see previous posts- this and this). By same analogy, group 15 elements are called "pentels".

pentel (pnicogen, pnictogen)

N,P,As,Sb,Bi derived (with contraction) from pent(a)-and element-referring to the fifth main group of the periodic table

Elsevier's Dictionary of Chemoetymology: The Whys and Whences of Chemical Nomenclature and Terminology by Alexander Senning, Elsevier, 2006

However, this usage is so rare and uncommon in chemistry that if you search for "pentel" on Google, it will lead to certain ball point pen.

  • 3
    $\begingroup$ well... i don't think any amount of usage in chemistry would make it competitive in searches with said ballpoint pen company - not least because ballpoint pens are a lot less niche $\endgroup$
    – somebody
    Commented Oct 21, 2022 at 13:26
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ @somebody And group 15 probably has a smaller SEO budget than an international stationary manufacturer. $\endgroup$
    – wizzwizz4
    Commented Oct 21, 2022 at 14:15

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