Electrons orbits are referred to as s, p, d, and f, then alphabetically. These stand for sharp, principal, diffuse and fundamental respectively (or maybe the German translations).

Was any other naming convention ever used to describe them in the beginning of the 20th century? The question dates the use back to the late 1920s, which leaves 10/15 years for alternative conventions to exist.

  • 3
    $\begingroup$ We discussed it all here: hsm.stackexchange.com/questions/648/… $\endgroup$
    – fdb
    May 12, 2015 at 13:23
  • $\begingroup$ @fdb no answer was given to the question there - it's already linked too in my question, click on "stands" $\endgroup$
    – VicAche
    May 12, 2015 at 13:37
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    $\begingroup$ That thread links to Jensen's article, which mentions Bohr's 1922 naming scheme without the s,p,d,f. Modern one was worked out by Born's assistant Hund, and first appeared in Born's 1925 monograph. che.uc.edu/jensen/W.%20B.%20Jensen/Reprints/… $\endgroup$
    – Conifold
    May 13, 2015 at 1:34

1 Answer 1


After a bit research I can not find anything about alternative names for quantum model of atom.

For Bohr's model 1, 2, 3... was used but it was for orbit not for orbitals.

According by According William B. Jensen Hund had followed Bohr’s practice of labelling the various shells and subshells in terms of their corresponding numerical quantum numbers as $3_1$, $3_2$, $3_3$ etc.

But that was not followed(broadly speaking accepted) by other, So he replaced it by series notations (s, p, d, and f).

The reasons behind no alternative name according to me are:

  • The discovery is new compared to many discoveries which have different names during different time.

  • Modern Periodic Table was made during same period so they had to find something which can be used for years without changing it. So if they keep had change the name then most probably there should be change in modern periodic table(can't find any such reference).

  • $\begingroup$ According to the link Conifold provided above, Hund did use Bohr's notation for his orbitals - $1_1$, $1_2$, etc. $\endgroup$
    – VicAche
    May 13, 2015 at 10:44
  • $\begingroup$ @VicAche Thank you for that, Will update that into my answer $\endgroup$
    – Freddy
    May 13, 2015 at 10:58

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