**Why downvoted? I think the good answers I got indicate that it was a reasonable question and beyond the ability of a beginner in Chinese such as myself to research online. Maybe this can be explained so I can ask better questions in the future. **
In every language I know, the word clearly means pretty much the English equivalent: "water" and "origin" -- German is something like "water" "component" and Russian seems closer to English.
So I would have expected that the character for the element would be two separate characters, one of which is "water" and the other something like "root" etc. but it is a single character. (In Japanese it appears to emulate the English with indeed two characters, one of which is "water")
Did Chinese attempt to create single character names for scientific words? Did Chinese at one time have a two-character name for hydrogen?