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Science >> Chemistry for Kids

Chemistry for Kids

Naming Chemical Compounds

Chemical compounds are formed when elements are joined by chemical bonds. These bonds are so strong that the compound behaves like a single substance. Compounds have their own properties that are unique from the elements they are made of. A compound is a type of molecule with more than one element. You can go here to learn more about molecules and compounds.

How Compounds are Named

Chemists have a specific way of naming compounds. It is a standard method of naming compounds that is used by scientists around the world. The name is built from the elements and the construction of the molecule.

Basic Naming Convention

First we'll cover how to name molecules with two elements (binary compounds). The name of a compound with two elements has two words.

To get the first word we use the name of the first element, or the element to the left of the formula. To get the second word we use the name of the second element and change the suffix to "ide" at the end of the word.

Some examples of adding the "ide":

O = oxygen = oxide
Cl = chlorine = chloride
Br = bromine = bromide
F = fluorine = fluoride

Examples of binary compounds:

NaCl - sodium chloride
MgS - magnesium sulfide
InP = indium phosphide

What if there is more than one atom?

In cases where there is more than one atom (for example there are two oxygen atoms in CO2) you add a prefix to the start of the element based on the number of atoms. Here is a list of the prefixes used:

# Atoms
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
10
Prefix
mono-
di-
tri-
tetra-
penta-
hexa-
hepta-
octa-
nona-
deca-

** note: the "mono" prefix is not used on the first element. For example CO = carbon monoxide.

Examples:

CO2 = carbon dioxide
N2O = dinitrogen monoxide
CCL4 = carbon tetrachloride
S3N2 = trisulfer dinitride

How is the order of the elements determined?

When there are two elements in a compound, which element goes first in the name?

If the compound is made of a metal element and a nonmetal element, then the metal element is first. If there are two nonmetal elements, then the first name is the element to the left side of the periodic table.

Examples: More Complex Naming Rules

See below for some of the more complex naming rules.

Naming Metal-Nonmetal Compounds

If one of the two compounds is a metal, then the naming convention changes a bit. Using the stock method, a roman numeral is used after the metal to indicate which ion is using the charge.

Examples:

Ag2Cl2 = silver (II) dichloride
FeF3 = iron (III) fluoride

Naming Polyatomic Compounds

Polyatomic compounds use a different suffix. Most of them end in "-ate" or "-ite". There are a few exceptions that end in "-ide" including hydroxide, peroxide, and cyanide.

Examples:

Na2SO4 = sodium sulfate
Na3PO4 = sodium phosphate
Na2SO3 = sodium sulfite

Naming Acids

Hydro acids use the prefix "hydro-" and the suffix "-ic".

HF = hydrofluoric acid
HCl - hydrochloric acid

Oxoacids containing oxygen use the "-ous" or the "-ic" suffix. The "-ic" suffix is used for the acid that has more oxygen atoms.

H2SO4 = sulfuric acid
HNO2 = nitrous acid
HNO3 = nitric acid



More Chemistry Subjects

Matter
Atom
Molecules
Isotopes
Solids, Liquids, Gases
Melting and Boiling
Chemical Bonding
Chemical Reactions
Radioactivity and Radiation
Mixtures and Compounds
Naming Compounds
Mixtures
Separating Mixtures
Solutions
Acids and Bases
Crystals
Metals
Salts and Soaps
Water
Other
Glossary and Terms
Chemistry Lab Equipment
Organic Chemistry
Famous Chemists

Elements and the Periodic Table
Elements
Periodic Table

Science >> Chemistry for Kids







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