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Common Names are Like Nicknames:  Short and Sweet

Discover the power of common names in organic chemistry with Dr. B's latest blog post. Short and sweet - just like nicknames.

Organic chemistry existed long before the IUPAC rules were formulated. Many simple organic compounds had already been given names which were sometimes based on their source or on an informal nomenclature system.

We call these common names. One of the reasons they are used is because they tend to be much shorter than the IUPAC names. They are like nicknames.

The alkane common names you should know are isobutane, neopentane and isopentane. The alkene common name ethylene and propylene are almost always used. Only an undergraduate learning IUPAC nomenclature would ever use the name ethene. I put a star by common names so you know that’s what they are.

The common names of simple alcohols are derived by putting the alkyl groups names before the word alcohol. The common names (as opposed to the IUPAC names) of isopropyl alcohol and tert-butyl alcohol are used almost exclusively by working chemists because they are much shorter. You would certainly have heard the names ethylene glycol (a component of anti-freeze) and glycerol (a common food additive and lubricant).

You need to check with your professor if they require you to know common names. I give you the common names working organic chemists would use in each section of Unit 3 and Unit 14.




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