Words that can be spelled using chemical symbols

Fans of National Public Radio’s Sunday Puzzle segment will remember occasional challenges (for example, the one described here) to spell English words using chemical symbols.  So, you could spell the word “iron” using the symbols for iridium, oxygen, and nitrogen (IrON.)  The example should make it clear that this has nothing to do with chemistry; iridium, nitrogen, and neon cannot form a compound, and if they could it wouldn’t be notated in that sequence.  It is just a matter of treating the symbols as if they were Scrabble tiles. 

I’ve been thinking about this, not only because I listen to the NPR Sunday Puzzle, but also because I teach in a classroom decorated with a big poster showing the periodic table.  When the students are taking a test or quiz, there are always at least a couple of minutes when I have nothing to do but look at that poster.  So I try to form words from the symbols. 

Here’s an exhaustive list of all the English words in the tenth edition of Merriam Webster’s dictionary that can be formed in this way.  It not only lists 26,811 words (with a total of 56,407 spellings,) but also includes word squares and word ladders.