Atomic Radius Definition: The atomic radius is a term used to describe the size of the atom, but there is no standard definition for this value. Atomic radius may refer to the ionic radius, covalent radius, metallic radius, or van der Waals radius. In all cases, the size of the atom is dependent on how far out the electrons extend. The atomic radius for an element tends to increase as one goes down an element group. The electrons become more tightly packed as you move across the periodic table, so while there are more electrons for elements of increasing atomic number, the atomic radius actually may decrease.