lith·​i·​um ˈli-thē-əm How to pronounce lithium (audio)
: a chemical element of the alkali metal group that is the lightest metal known and that is used especially in alloys and glass, in mechanical lubricants, and in storage batteries see Chemical Elements Table
: a salt of lithium (such as lithium carbonate) used in psychiatric medicine

Example Sentences

Recent Examples on the Web Cuberg is betting on what are known as lithium metal batteries to do the job. Time, 23 Nov. 2022 Lygend, which gets most of its revenue from customers in mainland China, will join the likes of EV battery supplier CALB Co. and battery-grade lithium compounds producer Tianqi Lithium Corp. that went public in Hong Kong this year. Dave Sebastian, WSJ, 21 Nov. 2022 In its largest grant ever to benefit a Native American tribe, California awarded $31 million to support construction of a long-duration energy storage system in San Diego County, with no lithium involved. Sammy Rothstaff Writer, Los Angeles Times, 10 Nov. 2022 According to Mills, Utah harbors deposits of 38 minerals appearing on the USGS’s official list of 50 critical minerals, such as lithium used in advanced battery technology and bismuth needed in medical research. Brian Maffly, The Salt Lake Tribune, 10 Nov. 2022 On those pages Righetti and Zilberstein detected lithium. Jo Marchant, Smithsonian Magazine, 10 Nov. 2022 That past report found lithium in groundwater around the Ghent facility at 154 times the health threshold set by the Environmental Protection Agency. Connor Giffin, The Courier-Journal, 3 Nov. 2022 Alternatives to lithium have been invented, Meng said. Hiawatha Bray,, 2 Nov. 2022 Dendrites are tiny crystal spikes that form in the lithium metal anodes of solid-state batteries over time. Roberto Baldwin, Ars Technica, 2 Nov. 2022 See More

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'lithium.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

Word History


borrowed from New Latin (in German context) Lithium, taken as the metallic component of the alkali Lithion, probably based on Greek litheîon, neuter of litheîos "of stone," derivative of líthos "stone, rock," of obscure origin

Note: The alkali was discovered and analyzed, apparently in late 1817, by the Swedish chemist Johan August Arfwedson (1792-1841), who at the time was working in the Stockholm laboratory of J.J. berzelius. Berzelius reported on the discovery and named the components in letters written to the editors of learned publications, as J. S. C. Schweiggers' Journal für Chemie und Physik. Schweiggers published the letter, dated January 27, 1818, as "Ein neues mineralisches Alkali und ein Neues Metall" ("a new mineral alkali and a new metal") in vol. 21 of the journal (pp. 44-48). According to Berzelius, "we have named it [the new alkali] Lithion, thereby alluding to its first discovery in the mineral kingdom, as the two others [the alkali metals sodium and potassium] were first discovered in organic substances [literally, "organic nature"]. Its radical will then be named Lithium." ("Wir haben es Lithion genannt, um dadurch auf seine erste Entdeckung im Mineralreich anzuspielen, da die beiden anderen erst in der organischen Natur entdeckt wurden. Sein Radical wird dann Lithium genannt werden.")

First Known Use

1818, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Time Traveler
The first known use of lithium was in 1818

Dictionary Entries Near lithium

Cite this Entry

“Lithium.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 29 Nov. 2022.

Kids Definition



lith·​i·​um ˈlith-ē-əm How to pronounce lithium (audio)
: a soft silver-white element that is the lightest metal known see element

Medical Definition



lith·​i·​um ˈlith-ē-əm How to pronounce lithium (audio)
: a soft silver-white element of the alkali metal group that is the lightest metal known and that is used in chemical synthesis and in storage batteries
symbol Li
see Chemical Elements Table
: a lithium salt and especially lithium carbonate used in psychiatric medicine

More from Merriam-Webster on lithium

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