Germanium is a chemical element with symbol Ge and atomic number 32. It is a lustrous, hard, grayish-white metalloid in the carbon group, chemically similar to its group neighbors tin and silicon. Purified germanium is a semiconductor, with an appearance most similar to elemental silicon. Like silicon, germanium naturally reacts and forms complexes with oxygen in nature. Unlike silicon, it is too reactive to be found naturally on Earth in the free (native) state.
Because very few minerals contain it in high concentration, germanium was discovered comparatively late in the history of chemistry. Germanium ranks near fiftieth in relative abundance of the elements in the Earth's crust. In 1869, Dmitri Mendeleev predicted its existence and some of its properties based on its position on his periodic table and called the element ekasilicon. Nearly two decades later, in 1886, Clemens Winklerfound the new element along with silver and sulfur, in a rare mineral called argyrodite. Although the new element somewhat resembled arsenic and antimony in appearance, its combining ratios in the new element's compounds agreed with Mendeleev's predictions for a relative of silicon. Winkler named the element after his country, Germany. Today, germanium is mined primarily from sphalerite (the primary ore of zinc), though germanium is also recovered commercially from silver, lead, and copperores.