Bismuth is a chemical element with symbol Bi and atomic number 83. Bismuth, a pentavalent post-transition metal, chemically resembles arsenic and antimony. Elemental bismuth may occur naturally, although its sulfide and oxide form important commercial ores. The free element is 86% as dense as lead. It is a brittle metal with a silvery white color when freshly produced, but is often seen in air with a pink tinge owing to surface oxidation. Bismuth is the most naturally diamagnetic element, and has one of the lowest values of thermal conductivity among metals.
Bismuth metal has been known since ancient times, although until the 18th century it was often confused with lead and tin, which share some physical properties. The etymology is uncertain, but possibly comes from Arabic bismuth, meaning having the properties of antimony or German words weisse masse or wismuth ("white mass"), translated in the mid-sixteenth century to New Latin bisemutum.
Bismuth has long been considered as the element with the highest atomic mass that is stable. However, in 2003 it was discovered to be weakly radioactive: its only primordial isotope, bismuth-209, decays via alpha decay with a half life more than a billion times the estimated age of the universe.
Bismuth compounds account for about half the production of bismuth. They are used in cosmetics, pigments, and a few pharmaceuticals, notably bismuth subsalicylate, used to treat diarrhea. Bismuth's unusual propensity to expand upon freezing is responsible for some of its uses, such as in casting of printing type. Bismuth has unusually low toxicity for a heavy metal. As the toxicity of lead has become more apparent in recent years, there is an increasing use of bismuth alloys (presently about a third of bismuth production) as a replacement for lead.