Definition:Atom (Physics)

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An atom (in the context of physics and chemistry) is the smallest piece of matter that can exist of a particular type of substance.

Atoms can be subdivided into smaller particles, but then it ceases to be that substance.


The nucleus of an atom is the relatively dense core at its center.

It consists (to a first degree of approximation) of a number of protons and a similar number of neutrons.

Linguistic Note

The word atom comes from the Greek ἄτομον, meaning unbreakable or indecomposable.

It is pronounced with a short a, as at-tom, as opposed to ay-tom.

Also see