General English

General Science

  • noun a heavy yellow metal that is relatively rare. It is used to make jewellery and precious objects.


  • noun a very valuable yellow metal. Gold is the traditional hedge against investment uncertainties. People buy gold in the form of coins or bars, because they think it will maintain its value when other investments such as government bonds, foreign currency or property may not be so safe. Gold is relatively portable, and small quantities can be taken from country to country if an emergency occurs.


  • A dense yellow metallic chemical element with atomic number 79. Gold is chemically inactive, extremely corrosion resistant, has a very high melting point, is the most malleable metal, and among the elements is surpassed only by copper and silver as a conductor of electricity. It has over 30 known isotopes, of which one is stable. Gold is important in many areas of electronics, including its use in electric contacts, electrodes, microelectronic circuits, and thin film components. Its symbol, Au, is taken from the Latin word for gold: aurum.
  • chemical symbolAu


  • noun a soft yellow-coloured precious metal, used as a compound in various drugs, and sometimes as a filling for teeth

Origin & History of “gold”

Gold gets its name from its colour. The perception of what this is has varied. In the ancient Germanic languages, red was often used as a poetic epithet for ‘gold’, and in English this survives into the present day as an archaism. And Latin aurum ‘gold’, source of French or and Italian and Spanish oro, is probably related to words for ‘dawn’ (such as Latin aurora), the inspiration in both cases being ‘redness’. The word gold, however, depends on the metal’s yellowness. It goes back to Indo-European *ghel-, source of English yellow. From this was formed *ghltom ‘gold’, which was the ancestor of Russian zoloto ‘gold’, polish złoto (whence złoty ‘golden’, used as the name of a Polish coin), Sanskrit hiranya- ‘gold’, and the various Germanic words for ‘gold’: English and German gold, Dutch goud, and Swedish and Danish guld.

Golden (13th c.) is a middle English derivative of gold, replacing the earlier gilden, which came from Old English gylden. Of related forms in other Germanic languages, Dutch gulden is the source of the former coin-name guilder (15th c.). The verb gild, from Old English gyldan, retains its original vowel; gilt (14th c.) began life as its past participle.