What is better term for describing a chemical element; "radioactive" or "unstable"?

I am leaning towards the "unstable", because it seems to me that it better describes nature of the element, as radioactivity is consequence of instability.

However, I am not sure.

  • $\begingroup$ "Unstable" is ambiguous in certain contexts. For example, ozone is definitely unstable, but not radioactive. (Also, it is not really an element, but it consists of one element, hence a confusion may arise.) $\endgroup$ – Ivan Neretin Apr 18 '18 at 15:58
  • $\begingroup$ So, you would actually prefer "radioactive element" than "unstable element" . If you specify what it is, could we call it better specified than if we used word radioactive? $\endgroup$ – mrmut Apr 18 '18 at 16:02

An unstable element could mean that it reacts violently with air (For example caesium or rubidium). It could also mean that it's unstable as in it radioactively decays (for example thorium). Or as Ivan commented with ozone, it's not very stable and turns from O3 to O2. The word unstable for a chemical element (as Ivan commented) is pretty ambiguous. So it helps to have some context

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    $\begingroup$ The thing is, we have a word for that - "reactivity". Reactive / highly reactive. I understand unstable tho, but more in the sense of compound. Say explosives are unstable (or metastable). $\endgroup$ – mrmut Apr 18 '18 at 16:13

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