Naming Amines

Definition of Primary Amines:

Primary amines are organic chemical compounds that include the functional group -NH2

That is, primary amines are a class or category of organic chemical compounds that include a nitrogen atom connected to two hydrogen atoms by single covalent bonds between the nitogen and each of the hydrogen atoms.

Primary, Secondary and Tertiary Amines:

In general amine 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. In addition to primary amines, there are other classes of amines such as secondary amines, tertiary amines and cyclic amines. In those cases, although the nitrogen atom (N) is present, the -NH2 group that forms part of primary amines is not complete because in the cases of e.g. secondary and tertiary amines, one or more of the hydrogen atoms is replaced by a carbon bonded to other atoms (e.g. carbons and hydrogens).

The diagram shows that in the case of primary amines, the N is bonded to two Hs and one C whereas in the cases of secondary and tertiary amines the N is bonded to 2 and 3 Cs respectively.

Above: Simple examples of primary, secondary and tertiary amines

In the cases of ...

  • Primary amides, only one cardon atom is attached to the N. In that case the N is also attached to two Hs.
  • Secondary amides, two carbon atoms are attached to the N.
  • Tertiary amides, three carbon atoms are attached to the N.

Amines are named in several ways. The name of the compound is usually formed from either the prefix 'amino-' or the suffix: '-amine.'

The prefix 'N-' indicates which carbon atom the nitrogen atom is attached to.

In the following table of linear primary amines the nitrogen atom is attached to an end carbon, hence it is counted as a 'first' or 'one' carbon atom in all of these examples. Lists of some of the other names also used to refer to these specific simple linear primary amines are included in the table.

Names and Structures of simple Linear Primary Amines

The first 10 members of the homologous series of linear primary amines with the -amine (or '-amino') group attached to the first (= last) carbon atom are:

  • Methylamine (CH5N)
    Simple Formula:
    Simple Structure:
    structure of methylamine
    *Examples of other / previous names:
    • methanamine
    • n-Methylamine
    • aminomethane
    • amino methane
  • Ethylamine (C2H7N)
    Simple Formula:
    Simple Structure:
    structure of ethylamine
    *Examples of other / previous names:
    • ethanamine
    • n-Ethylamine
    • aminoethane
    • amino ethane
  • Propylamine (C3H9N)
    Simple Formula:
    Simple Structure:
    structure of propylamine
    *Examples of other / previous names:
    • propan-1-amine
    • n-Propylamine
    • Propan-1-amine
    • 1-Aminopropane
  • Butylamine (C4H11N)
    Simple Formula:
    Simple Structure:
    structure of butylamine
    *Examples of other / previous names:
    • butan-1-amine
    • n-Butylamine
    • amino butane
    • 1-Aminobutane
  • Pentylamine (C5H13N)
    Simple Formula:
    Simple Structure:
    structure of pentylamine
    *Examples of other / previous names:
    • pentan-1-amine
    • n-Pentylamine
    • Pentanamine
    • n-Amylamine
    • 1-Aminopentane
  • Hexylamine (C6H15N)
    Simple Formula:
    Simple Structure:
    structure of hexylamine
    *Examples of other / previous names:
    • hexan-1-amine
    • n-Hexylamine
    • 1-Aminohexane
  • Heptylamine (C7H17N)
    Simple Formula:
    Simple Structure:
    structure of heptylamine
    *Examples of other / previous names:
    • heptan-1-amine
    • n-Heptylamine
    • 1-Aminoheptane
  • Octylamine (C8H19N)
    Simple Formula:
    Simple Structure:
    structure of octylamine
    *Examples of other / previous names:
    • octan-1-amine
    • n-Octylamine
    • 1-Aminooctane
    • 1-Octanamine
    • Monoctylamine
  • Nonylamine (C9H21N)
    Simple Formula:
    Simple Structure:
    structure of nonylamine
    *Examples of other / previous names:
    • nonan-1-amine
    • n-Nonylamine
    • 1-Aminononane
  • Decylamine (C10H23N)
    Simple Formula:
    Simple Structure:
    structure of decylamine
    *Examples of other / previous names:
    • decan-1-amine
    • n-Decylamine
    • 1-Aminodecane

Important Note: *The synonyms indicated for compounds listed above are just some examples of alternative names found online and believed to have been used to refer to the substance indicated. They have not all been verified and may include common (non-scientific) names and trade names specific to particular suppliers. The purpose of these lists is to give a general indication of the range of names by which these amines are known.

Examples of simple Secondary Amines

  • Dimethylamine (CH3)2NH
    Simple Structure:
    structure of diethylamine
    *Examples of other / previous names:
    • N-Methylmethanamine
  • Diethylamine (CH3CH2)2NH
    Simple Structure:
    structure of diethylamine
    *Examples of other / previous names:
    • N-Ethylethanamine

Other members of this homologous series of secondary amines include dipropylamine, dibutylamine, dipentylamine, dihexylamine and so on.

Examples of simple Tertiary Amines

  • Trimethylamine N(CH3)3
    Simple Structure:
    structure of diethylamine
    *Examples of other / previous names:
    • N,N-Dimethylmethanamine
  • Triethylamine N(CH2CH3)3
    Simple Structure:
    structure of diethylamine
    *Examples of other / previous names:
    • N,N-Diethylethanamine

Other members of this homologous series of tertiary amines include tripropylamine, tributylamine, tripentylamine, trihexylamine and so on.

See also the related page about functional groups in organic molecules, which includes the nitrile group among others.

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