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Was the metal named "devil's copper" - nickel - named after Saint Nicholas, any clarification?

Question #42171. Asked by mibmob.
Last updated Sep 05 2016.

Senior Moments
Answer has 3 votes
Senior Moments

Answer has 3 votes.
Nickel was discovered by A.F. Cronstedt in 1751
Origin : The name is a shortened version of the German ‘Kupfernickel’, meaning Devil’s copper or St. Nicholas’s copper.

[ nolonger exists ]

Response last updated by gtho4 on Sep 05 2016.
Dec 10 2003, 4:28 AM
Answer has 5 votes
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23 year member
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Answer has 5 votes.

Currently voted the best answer.
The OED says that the “nickel” in “Kupfernickel” is a German word meaning “dwarf, rascal or mischievous demon.” The Duden Universal-Wörterbuch says that Nickel is an old word for a Kobold, which it defines as a dwarfish sprite which plays jokes and can sometimes be wicked or mischievous. The word is derived from the name Nikolaus/Nicholas, but there is no reference to its being used for the saint.

Because the ore looked as if it contained copper but didn’t actually yield any, it was originally thought to be worthless, and its presence in copper mines seemed to be a practical joke by a Nickel.

Interestingly, “Kobold” (which means much the same as “Nickel”) is the origin of the word cobalt.

Dec 10 2003, 5:24 AM
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