Naming Alcohols

(Chemical) Definition of Alcohols:

Alcohols are organic chemical compounds that include the -hydroxyl functional group: hydroxyl group (part of chemicals called alcohols)

That is, alcohols are a class or category of organic chemical compounds that include a part consisting of an oxygen atom (attached to one of the carbon atoms in the molecule), to which a single hydrogen atom is also attached.

Alcohol molecules can vary in size up to very long molecules most of which consist of carbon atoms attached to each other and also to hydrogen atoms.

When the structures of alcohols are drawn in textbooks, on websites or in course materials, the covalent bond between the oxygen and the hydrogen is not always shown, although it is always present. That is, the hydroxyl group may be represented as: - O - H or as -OH

Names of Alcohols in General

Alcohols are named according to the same system as other organic compounds, with the suffix -ol used to designate the presence in the molecule of a hydroxyl group.

The first step is to consider the number of carbon atoms forming a chain. If they are attached together in a linear (i.e. unbranched) configuration then the number of carbon atoms is indicated according to the same system as used for naming alkanes (see the examples listed in the table below).
However, if the carbon atoms do not form a linear chain but include branches, the longest linear chain of carbon atoms within the molecule determines the base of the name of the compound, onto which is added information about the branches incl. their lengths in terms of the number of carbon atoms in each branch (i.e. methyl- indicates a branch consisting of just one carbon atom attached to the main chain, ethyl- indicates a branch of two carbon atoms in length, etc.) and their positions along the longest linear carbon chain (e.g. attached to the 2nd carbon, 3rd carbon, etc.).

The simplest linear alcohols are named and their structures drawn in the following table.
More complex alcohol molecules follow afterwards.

Names and Structures of simple Linear Alcohols

The homologous series of linear alcohols with the -hydroxyl group attached to the first (=last) carbon atom is shown below.

  • Methanol (CH3OH)
    Simple Formula:
    Simple Structure:
    structure of methanol
    *Examples of other / previous names:
    • methyl alcohol
    • methyl hydrate
    • methyl hydroxide
    • methylol
    • metanol
    • carbinol
    • carbonal
  • Ethanol (C2H5OH)
    Simple Formula:
    Simple Structure:
    structure of ethanol
    *Examples of other / previous names:
    • ethyl alcohol
    • ethyl hydroxide
    • ethylol
    • hydroxyethane
    • 1-hydroxyethane
    • methylcarbinol
    • and many more
  • Propanol (C3H7OH)
    Simple Formula:
    Simple Structure:
    structure of propanol
    *Examples of other / previous names:
    • propan-1-ol
    • 1-propanol
    • n-propanol
    • propyl alcohol
    • n-propyl alcohol
    • propylic alcohol
    • ethyl carbinol
    • optal
  • Butanol (C4H9OH)
    Simple Formula:
    Simple Structure:
    structure of butanol
    *Examples of other / previous names:
    • butan-1-ol
    • 1-butanol
    • n-butanol
    • n-butan-1-ol
    • 1-hydroxybutane
    • propyl carbinol
    • 1-butyl alcohol
    • butyl hydroxide
  • Pentanol (C5H11OH)
    Simple Formula:
    Simple Structure:
    structure of pentanol
    *Examples of other / previous names:
    • pentan-1-ol
    • 1-pentanol
    • n-pentanol
    • n-pentan-1-ol
    • butyl carbinol
    • amyl alcohol
    • amylol
    • C5 alcohol
  • Hexanol (C6H13OH)
    Simple Formula:
    Simple Structure:
    structure of hexanol
    *Examples of other / previous names:
    • hexan-1-ol
    • 1-hexanol
    • n-hexanol
    • n-hexan-1-ol
    • pentyl carbinol
    • caproic alcohol
    • caproyl alcohol
    • amylcarbinol
    • alcohol C-6
    • c6 alcohol
  • Heptanol (C7H15OH)
    Simple Formula:
    Simple Structure:
    structure of heptanol
    *Examples of other / previous names:
    • heptan-1-ol
    • 1-heptanol
    • n-heptanol
    • n-heptan-1-ol
    • heptyl alcohol
    • n-heptyl alcohol
    • hexyl carbinol
    • alcohol C-7
    • hydroxy heptane
  • Octanol (C8H17OH)
    Simple Formula:
    Simple Structure:
    structure of octanol
    *Examples of other / previous names:
    • octan-1-ol
    • 1-octanol
    • n-octanol
    • n-octan-1-ol
    • octyl alcohol
    • n-octyl alcohol
    • capryl alcohol
    • caprylic alcohol
    • heptyl carbinol
    • alcohol C-8
  • Nonanol (C9H19OH)
    Simple Formula:
    Simple Structure:
    structure of nonanol
    *Examples of other / previous names:
    • nonan-1-ol
    • 1-nonanol
    • n-nonanol
    • n-nonan-1-ol
    • nonyl alcohol
    • n-nonyl alcohol
    • nonalol
    • octyl carbinol
  • Decanol (C10H21OH)
    Simple Formula:
    Simple Structure:
    structure of decanol
    *Examples of other / previous names:
    • decan-1-ol
    • n-decanol
    • n-decan-1-ol
    • decyl alcohol
    • n-decyl alcohol
    • capric alcohol
    • caprinic alcohol
    • nonylcarbinol

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