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Organic nomenclature

Organic nomeclature in organic chemistry is the system established for naming and grouping chemical compounds.

Formally, rules established by the International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry are authoritative for the names of organic compounds, but in practice, a number of simply-applied rules can allow one to use and understand the names of many organic compounds.

For many compounds, naming can begin by determining the name of the parent hydrocarbon and by identifying any functional groups in the molecule that distinguish it from the parent hydrocarbon. The numbering of the parent alkane is used, as modified, if necessary, by application of the Cahn Ingold Prelog priority rules in the case that ambiguity remains after consideration of the structure of the parent hydrocarbon alone. The name of the parent hydrocarbon is modified by the application of the highest-priority functional group suffix, with the remaining functional groups indicated by numbered prefixes, appearing in the name in alphabetical order from first to last.

In many cases, lack of rigor in applying all such nomenclature rules still yields a name that is intelligible--the aim, of course, being to avoid any ambiguity in terms of what substance is being discussed.

For instance, strict application of CIP priority to the naming of the compound


would render the name as 2-aminoethanol, which is preferred. However, the name 2-hydroxyethanamine unambiguously refers to the same compound.

How the name was constructed:

  1. There are two carbons in the main chain; this gives the root name "eth".
  2. Since the carbons are singly-bonded, the suffix begins with "an".
  3. The two functional groups are an alcohol (OH) and an amine (NH2). The alcohol has the higher atomic number, and takes priority over the amine. The suffix for an alcohol ends in "ol", so that the suffix is "anol".
  4. The amine group is not on the carbon with the OH (the #1 carbon), but one carbon over (the #2 carbon); therefore we indicate it's presence with the prefix "2-amino".
  5. Putting together the prefix, the root and the suffix, we get "2-aminoethanol".

Simplified molecular input line entry specification (SMILES) strings are commonly used to describe Organic compounds, and as such are a form of 'naming' them.

See Also

Wikibooks' Organic chemistry