The Major Elements And Their Chemical Symbols Found In Living Things

Living things need chemical elements, either to form the structure/cells/organs inside themselves or to help them in chemical-based process. If we talk about the major elements which make up the cells of living organisms, there are only four of them.

The Major Elements And Their Chemical Symbols Found In Living Things

There are some other elements called the trace elements. These elements only compost 0,5% part of the atoms in living things. But, they have essential roles in the existence of living organisms. That is why those chemical elements deserve the title as major elements as well.

  • Carbon

Carbon is one of the major elements in living things which chemical symbol is C. Carbon can form polymers which are large molecules with necessary functions and roles in forming structures. This element can form polymers on earth temperature. That is why, regarding the mass, carbon is the fourth most abundant in the universe.

The abundant amount of carbon does not only exist in the universe but also the human body. By mass, the largest element we can find in our body is oxygen. The second largest is carbon (around 18,5%).

  • Hydrogen

Other major elements found in living things are hydrogen. This chemical element, which symbol is H, is the lightest element. While carbon is the fourth most abundant element in the universe, hydrogen is on top of the list.

On earth, you can find hydrogen in the form of water or organic compounds, such as carbohydrates. Hydrogen also has significant use in industrial production. Two of the largest are uses are in the process of fossil fuel and ammonia (fertilizer) production.

  • Oxygen

We are all very familiar with this particular element. The mass of oxygen is the third-largest in the universe. Two atoms of this element, which chemical symbol is O, will form dioxygen (O2).

Dioxygen has major responsibilities in living organisms. It is needed in cellular respiration. It is also a component in organic molecules such as proteins, carbohydrates, and fats, as well as the inorganic compounds found in animal shells, teeth, and bone.

One of the processes that keep the sustainable existence of oxygen on earth is photosynthesis. It uses the energy of sunlight to process water and carbon dioxide to produce oxygen. The plenty amount of oxygen than can be used in many industrial productions, such as steel, plastics, and textiles.


Nitrogen is another major element found in living things. The chemical symbol of nitrogen is N. Two atoms of this element will bind to form dinitrogen in standard temperature and pressure.

Dinitrogen is a diatomic gas which composes 78% of the earth’s atmosphere. We also can find nitrogen inside our body – our body has 3% nitrogen by mass. Just like the other elements, industrial production also uses nitrogen in making products, such as fertilizers.

  • Phosphorus

Phosphorus, an element with chemical symbol P, has an essential part in life. Phosphate, a phosphorus-contained salt, is the component of DNA, RNA, ATP, and phospholipids. Its presence in DNA, which responsible for genetic information, shows what a major job this element has in people’s life.

  • Sulfur

Sulfur has the symbol S. This element can be found in protein, where sulfur forms bridges to connect different parts of the protein. That is why protein has its 3D shape.

This element is commonly used in producing agricultural products, such as insecticides and fungicides. Its essential existence in all living things also showed by its role as the primary macronutrient, a nutrient used to generate energy, as well as to repair and grow tissues.

  • Sodium, Chlorine, Potassium, Calcium

Our nerve cells communicate with each other by sending electrical signals. Those four elements are necessary for that process.

These are the chemical symbols of each of that element: sodium (Na, from its Latin name Natrium), chlorine (Cl), potassium (K, from its neo-Latin name Kalium), and calcium (Ca).

  • Magnesium   

Magnesium, which chemical symbol is Mg, is a key element for hundreds of enzymes to function. It is used medicinally to treat constipation. It can also help to neutralize acidity in the stomach as well as to relieve an upset stomach.

  • Iron

Iron, the chemical element we can find in our body, has the symbol Fe (from its Latin name Ferrum).


We can find Iron in Haemoglobin and Myoglobin, two proteins that found in the red blood cells and the muscle tissues consecutively.

  • Iodine

Iodine has the chemical symbol I. This is a crucial dietary mineral that can the lack of it in the human body will result in developmental delays.

  • Manganese (Mn)
  • Molybdenum (Mo)
  • Selenium (Se)
  • Silicon (Si)
  • Tin (Sn, from its Latin name Stannum)
  • Vanadium (V)
  • Boron (B)
  • Chromium (Cr)
  • Cobalt (Co)
  • Copper (Cu, from its Latin name Cuprum)
  • Fluorine (F)

They are carbon, hydrogen, oxygen, and nitrogen. 96% of the living organisms’ atoms are indeed made of these elements. Regarding the content, those four elements are the major ones but it does not mean that other elements are not as important.