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Kalium vs. Potassium — What's the Difference?

By Tayyaba Rehman — Published on September 21, 2023
Kalium is the Latin name for the element, while Potassium is its English name.
Kalium vs. Potassium — What's the Difference?

Difference Between Kalium and Potassium


Key Differences

Kalium is derived from the Latin term for the chemical element with the symbol "K." It's the origin of the element's symbol and resonates with many languages that use a variant of "Kalium" to refer to this element. On the other hand, Potassium is the name used in English and several other languages for the same element. It's the term you'll find in English textbooks, food labels, and medical journals.
In terms of etymology, Kalium traces back to "qali," an Arabic term referring to alkali, which denotes the ashes of burned plants. This connects to the process of obtaining alkali metals, like potassium, from plant ashes. Potassium, meanwhile, gets its name from "potash," which is derived from the old method of producing potassium carbonate by leaching wood ashes and evaporating the solution in pots.
While Kalium is not commonly used in day-to-day English conversations, its influence is evident in the periodic table. The symbol "K" represents potassium, paying homage to its Latin origins. Potassium, however, is prevalent in scientific discussions, health recommendations, and general discourse in English-speaking regions.
In essence, both Kalium and Potassium refer to the same chemical element essential for life, especially in nerve function and muscle contraction. The difference primarily rests in linguistic and historical contexts.

Comparison Chart



Usage in Modern English

Rarely used
Commonly used

Periodic Symbol

Reason for the symbol "K"
Does not correlate directly to its English name


Derived from "qali," an Arabic term for alkali
Derived from "potash"


More historical and used in certain languages
Used in modern scientific, medical, and common terms

Compare with Definitions


The Latin name for the chemical element with the symbol "K."
She noticed that the symbol for potassium was K, representing Kalium.


A chemical element essential for life, with the symbol "K."
Bananas are an excellent source of potassium.


An older name representing the 19th element.
Although not English, Kalium is an essential name in chemistry.


A nutrient vital for nerve function and muscle contraction.
Doctors often advise eating potassium-rich foods for muscle health.


The origin of the periodic symbol for potassium.
Kalium gives the element its distinctive K symbol.


An element derived historically from potash.
Early chemists extracted potassium from potash.


A term resonating with many non-English languages for potassium.
In some countries, Kalium is the accepted term over potassium.


An alkali metal used in various industries and medicines.
They used potassium in the manufacturing process.


The historical term for a vital element in the periodic table.
Kalium's name has roots in ancient linguistic traditions.


The English name for the element represented by the symbol "K."
The periodic table lists potassium next to calcium.


(obsolete) potassium.


Potassium is a chemical element with the symbol K (from Neo-Latin kalium) and atomic number 19. Potassium is a silvery-white metal that is soft enough to be cut with a knife with little force.


Potassium; - so called by the German chemists.


A soft, silver-white, extremely reactive element that is an alkali metal, is essential to plant and animal cell functions, and occurs in nature only in compounds. It can be obtained by electrolysis of its hydroxide and is found in, or converted to, a wide variety of salts used especially in fertilizers and soaps. Atomic number 19; atomic weight 39.098; melting point 63.5°C; boiling point 759°C; specific gravity 0.86; valence 1. See Periodic Table.


A soft, waxy, silvery reactive metal that is never found unbound in nature; an element (symbol K) with an atomic number of 19 and atomic weight of 39.0983. The symbol is derived from the Latin kalium.


(countable) A single atom of this element.


An Alkali element, occurring abundantly but always combined, as in the chloride, sulphate, carbonate, or silicate, in the minerals sylvite, kainite, orthoclase, muscovite, etc. Atomic weight 39.0. Symbol K (Kalium).


A light soft silver-white metallic element of the alkali metal group; oxidizes rapidly in air and reacts violently with water; is abundant in nature in combined forms occurring in sea water and in carnallite and kainite and sylvite

Common Curiosities

Why do we use the word Potassium in English instead of Kalium?

Potassium derives from "potash," which historically described its extraction method.

Why is the symbol for potassium "K"?

The "K" comes from Kalium, the Latin name for potassium.

Is Kalium used in modern scientific contexts?

While the term isn't common in modern English, its legacy remains in the symbol "K."

Why is potassium important for our bodies?

Potassium plays a vital role in nerve functions and muscle contractions.

Is there a difference between Kalium and Potassium in chemical properties?

No, they are different names for the same element.

How was potassium historically extracted?

From potash, which is derived from leached wood ashes.

What's the origin of the term Kalium?

It traces back to "qali," an Arabic term for alkali.

Are Kalium and Potassium the same in medical terms?

Yes, but "potassium" is the preferred term in English medical contexts.

Which foods are rich in potassium?

Bananas, beans, and potatoes are among the many potassium-rich foods.

Is there any difference in usage of Kalium vs. Potassium in the periodic table?

Only in the symbol; potassium is represented by "K" for Kalium.

Why is potassium vital in medicine?

Its role in maintaining heart rhythm and muscle function is crucial.

Why is the name Kalium less known to the general public?

Because "potassium" became the dominant term in English and many other languages.

Are there languages that use a variation of Kalium?

Yes, several languages, like German, use a form of Kalium.

Can I find the term Kalium on product labels?

Rarely in English-speaking regions; "potassium" is more prevalent.

Can the history of Kalium be traced back to ancient times?

Yes, its etymology is rooted in ancient Arabic references to alkali.

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Author Spotlight

Written by
Tayyaba Rehman
Tayyaba Rehman is a distinguished writer, currently serving as a primary contributor to As a researcher in semantics and etymology, Tayyaba's passion for the complexity of languages and their distinctions has found a perfect home on the platform. Tayyaba delves into the intricacies of language, distinguishing between commonly confused words and phrases, thereby providing clarity for readers worldwide.

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