helium

[hee-lee-uh m]
noun
  1. an inert, gaseous element present in the sun's atmosphere and in natural gas, and also occurring as a radioactive decomposition product, used as a substitute for flammable gases in dirigible balloons. Symbol: He; atomic weight: 4.0026; atomic number: 2; density: 0.1785 g/l at 0°C and 760 mm pressure.

Origin of helium

1875–80; < New Latin < Greek hḗli(os) the sun + New Latin -ium -ium

helium I

noun
  1. colorless liquid helium existing below its boiling point of 4.2 K and above the lambda point of 2.186 K.

helium II

noun
  1. liquid helium existing as a superfluid below the lambda point of 2.186 K, having very low viscosity and very high thermal conductivity.
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Examples from the Web for helium

Contemporary Examples of helium

Historical Examples of helium

  • He thought he could send Man to the stars on a string of helium nuclei.

    Teething Ring

    James Causey

  • There was only one thing to do, there being only one other gas comparable in lightness to helium.

    Bread Overhead

    Fritz Reuter Leiber

  • The helium line of the latter had never been noticed to be double.

    The Story of the Heavens

    Robert Stawell Ball

  • The brain is a physical thing—a bunch of cryotrons in a helium bath.

    Unwise Child

    Gordon Randall Garrett

  • It was easier to cool the helium bath of the brain if it only had to be lowered 175 degrees or so.

    Unwise Child

    Gordon Randall Garrett


British Dictionary definitions for helium

helium

noun
  1. a very light nonflammable colourless odourless element that is an inert gas, occurring in certain natural gases: used in balloons and in cryogenic research. Symbol: He; atomic no: 2; atomic wt: 4.002602; density: 0.1785 kg/m³; at normal pressures it is liquid down to absolute zero; melting pt: below –272.2°C; boiling pt: –268.90°CSee also alpha particle

Word Origin for helium

C19: New Latin, from helio- + -ium; named from its having first been detected in the solar spectrum
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012

Word Origin and History for helium
n.

1868, coined from Greek helios "sun" (see sol), because the element was detected in the solar spectrum during the eclipse of Aug. 18, 1868, by English astronomer Sir Joseph N. Lockyer (1836-1920) and English chemist Sir Edward Frankland (1825-1899). It was not actually obtained until 1895; it was assumed before that to be an alkali metal, hence the ending in -ium.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

helium in Medicine

helium

[hēlē-əm]
n. Symbol He
  1. An inert gaseous element used in liquid form as a cryogen and as a substitute for nitrogen in artificial breathing mixtures for deep-sea diving and workers in high-pressure conditions. Atomic number 2.
The American Heritage® Stedman's Medical Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.

helium in Science

helium

[hēlē-əm]
He
  1. A very lightweight, colorless, odorless element in the noble gas group. Helium occurs in natural gas, in radioactive ores, and in small amounts in the atmosphere. It has the lowest boiling point of any substance and is the second most abundant element in the universe. Helium is used to provide lift for balloons and blimps and to create artificial air that will not react chemically. Atomic number 2; atomic weight 4.0026; boiling point -268.9°C; density at 0°C 0.1785 gram per liter. See Periodic Table.
Word History: The second most abundant element in the universe after hydrogen, Helium (symbol He) is a colorless, odorless, nonmetallic gas that is produced abundantly by the nuclear fusion in all stars and is found in smaller amounts on Earth. It was discovered by the British scientist-and founding editor of the journal Nature-Joseph Norman Lockyer in 1868, while he was studying a solar eclipse with a spectroscope, an instrument that breaks light up into a spectrum. If an element is heated up enough to glow, the emitted light produces a unique spectrum when refracted through a prism. Lockyer noticed that the spectrum of the Sun's corona, which is visible only during a solar eclipse, contained lines produced by an unknown element. He named the element helium from helios, the Greek word for “sun.” Helios gives us many other words pertaining to the Sun, such as heliocentric and perihelion.
The American Heritage® Science Dictionary Copyright © 2011. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.

helium in Culture

helium

A chemical element, usually found in the form of a gas, in which two electrons are in orbit, and the nucleus consists of two protons and two neutrons. Its symbol is He.

Note

Helium is the best known of the inert gases.

Note

Because it is lighter than air, helium is used to fill balloons.
The New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, Third Edition Copyright © 2005 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.