The word element comes from the Latin word elementum meaning "the basic parts that are the foundations of something". The development of this word in latin was heavily influenced by the Greek word στοιχεῖον (stoicieion), the exact roots of which is unknown.
In the general form the word has its etymological meaning, but in other contexts the word has several other specific meanings, some of which are listed below.
- The classical elements were believed for a long time (by the pythagoreans and alchemists for example) to be the building blocks of all matter in the universe, see: classical element
- In chemistry, an element is a material that consists of atoms with the same number of protons in the nucleus, see: chemical element
- In electronics, an element is any device (such as an inductor, resistor, capacitor, conductor, line, or cathode ray tube) with terminals at which it may be connected directly with other devices. It can also mean a antenna radiator (either parasitic or active). In circuitry, it can be used to specify a portion of a integrated circuit that contributes directly to the IC's operation. See: Electrical element
- In Morse code, an element is the dot or dash.
- In mathematics, an element is one object contained in a set.
- In XML, an element is a particular kind of grammatical fragment of an xml document. See W3C's Logical Structures.