any of two or more forms of a chemical element, having the same number of protons in the nucleus, or the same atomic number, but having different numbers of neutrons in the nucleus, or different atomic weights. There are 275 isotopes of the 81 stable elements, in addition to over 800 radioactive isotopes, and every element has known isotopic forms. Isotopes of a single element possess almost identical properties.
1913, literally "having the same place," introduced by British chemist Frederick Soddy (1877-1956) on suggestion of Margaret Todd, from Greek isos "equal" (see iso-) + topos "place" (see topos); so called because despite the different atomic weights, the various forms of an element occupy the same place on the periodic table.
One of two or more atoms that have the same atomic number (the same number of protons) but a different number of neutrons. Carbon 12, the most common form of carbon, has six protons and six neutrons, whereas carbon 14 has six protons and eight neutrons. Isotopes of a given element typically behave alike chemically. With the exception of hydrogen, elements found on Earth generally have the same number of protons and neutrons; heavier and lighter isotopes (with more or fewer neutrons) are often unstable and undergo radioactive decay.
In physics, different forms of the same element, with nuclei that have the same number of protons but different numbers of neutrons. Isotopes are distinguished from each other by giving the combined number of protons and neutrons in the nucleus. For example, uranium 235 is the isotope of uranium that has 235 protons and neutrons in its nucleus rather than the more commonly occurring 238. All elements have isotopes.