How to name organic compounds

Published by Daniel Ozori on

How To name organic compounds

If you’re reading this article right now then you might probably be wondering how to name organic compounds properly.

Maybe it’s because of a test, or an assignment in class or maybe you’re just curious, any which way

Naming organic compounds is very easy to do when you’ve properly grasped the basics, and those simple basics is what i’ll be teaching you in this article.

Naming the Organic compounds

As we should all know by now organic compounds are compounds which are made when carbon bonds with other elements (mostly hydrogen).

After it bonds with these certain elements it forms strong chain like structures that can either be saturated or unsaturated.

But in this article we’ll be dealing with the saturated hydrocarbons first to make it easier and faster to learn.

An example of saturated hydrocarbons is the Alkane group (methane, ethane, propane, butane, pentane…..)

They’re all made up of single bonds which makes it a saturated hydrocarbon group and have the general formula of CnH2n+2.

Pentane (C5H12), a member of the Alkane group has a carbon number count of five as seen in the image below

Numbering Pentane

When naming this kind of compound, we count the number of carbon atoms present in the whole molecule first and add the suffix.

The prefix pent-, is a Greek word which means five, and the suffix -ane is derived from the alk-ANE group of which belongs.

The next one right after pentane is hexane, which possesses six carbon atoms

The Prefix Hex- meaning six in Greek and the suffix -ane coming from it’s alk-ANE group and the same taxonomy process applies to the other compounds in the group.

Easy right?

Ok then let’s move on.

Compounds with branched chains

Organic compounds with branched chains are actually be referred to as isomers, How so?

Take the molecular formula of Pentane which is C5H12  and 2-methylbutane


2-methylbutane has exactly the same number of carbon and hydrogen atoms.

it just has a different structural formula making 2-methylbutane an isomer of pentane.

But what’s methyl and why 2-methylbutane and not 3-methylbutane?

Methyl is one of the hydrocarbon groups with the general formula CnH2n+1

This indicates that the a methyl compound is formed by the removal of one hydrogen atom.

If you closely look at the structure of 2-methylbutane you’ll see that the branched carbon atom found on top of the second carbon atom was formed by removing a hydrogen atom.

We say 2-methylbutane because when naming branched chain compounds we name them according to the ones closest to the first or last hydrocarbon.

Categories: organic chemistry


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