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I think it's because the overall compound has a negative charge. Usually when a transition metal is used it has an overall positive charge so it's odd when it's negative. Lavelle said adding -ate to transition metals sounds weird too so use that to remember it's an odd compound with an overall negative charge.
Because the coordinate complex has an overall negative charge it is an anion and therefore when naming the overall complex with negative charge -ate is added to the metal. If the symbol of the metal originates from the Latin name, the latin stem is used, therefore for iron Fe, the latin ferrum is used therefore it will be ferrate.
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