IUPAC nomenclature of inorganic chemistry

In chemical nomenclature, the IUPAC nomenclature of inorganic chemistry is a systematic method of naming inorganic chemical compounds, as recommended by the International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry (IUPAC). It is published in Nomenclature of Inorganic Chemistry (which is informally called the Red Book).[1] Ideally, every inorganic compound should have a name from which an unambiguous formula can be determined. There is also an IUPAC nomenclature of organic chemistry.


The names "caffeine" and "3,7-dihydro-1,3,7-trimethyl-1H-purine-2,6-dione" both signify the same chemical. The systematic name encodes the structure and composition of the caffeine molecule in some detail, and provides an unambiguous reference to this compound, whereas the name "caffeine" just names it. These advantages make the systematic name far superior to the common name when absolute clarity and precision are required. However, for the sake of brevity, even professional chemists will use the non-systematic name almost all of the time, because caffeine is a well-known common chemical with a unique structure. Similarly, H2O is most often simply called water in English, though other chemical names do exist.

  1. Single atom anions are named with an -ide suffix: for example, H is hydride.
  2. Compounds with a positive ion (cation): The name of the compound is simply the cation's name (usually the same as the element's), followed by the anion. For example, NaCl is sodium chloride, and CaF2 is calcium fluoride.
  3. Cations which have taken on more than one positive charge are labeled with Roman numerals in parentheses. For example, Cu+ is copper(I), Cu2+ is copper(II). An older, deprecated notation is to append -ous or -ic to the root of the Latin name to name ions with a lesser or greater charge. Under this naming convention, Cu+ is cuprous and Cu2+ is cupric. For naming metal complexes see the page on complex (chemistry).
  4. Oxyanions (polyatomic anions containing oxygen) are named with -ite or -ate, for a lesser or greater quantity of oxygen, respectively. For example, NO
    is nitrite, while NO
    is nitrate. If four oxyanions are possible, the prefixes hypo- and per- are used: hypochlorite is ClO, perchlorate is ClO
  5. The prefix bi- is a deprecated way of indicating the presence of a single hydrogen ion, as in "sodium bicarbonate" (NaHCO3). The modern method specifically names the hydrogen atom. Thus, NaHCO3 would be pronounced sodium hydrogen carbonate.

Positively charged ions are called cations and negatively charged ions are called anions. The cation is always named first. Ions can be metals, non-metals or polyatomic ions. Therefore, the name of the metal or positive polyatomic ion is followed by the name of the non-metal or negative polyatomic ion. The positive ion retains its element name whereas for a single non-metal anion the ending is changed to -ide.

Example: sodium chloride, potassium oxide, or calcium carbonate.

When the metal has more than one possible ionic charge or oxidation number the name becomes ambiguous. In these cases the oxidation number (the same as the charge) of the metal ion is represented by a Roman numeral in parentheses immediately following the metal ion name. For example, in uranium(VI) fluoride the oxidation number of uranium is 6. Another example is the iron oxides. FeO is iron(II) oxide and Fe2O3 is iron(III) oxide.

An older system used prefixes and suffixes to indicate the oxidation number, according to the following scheme:

Oxidation state Cations and acids Anions
Lowest hypo- -ous hypo- -ite
  -ous -ite
  -ic -ate
  per- -ic per- -ate
Highest hyper- -ic hyper- -ate

Thus the four oxyacids of chlorine are called hypochlorous acid (HOCl), chlorous acid (HOClO), chloric acid (HOClO2) and perchloric acid (HOClO3), and their respective conjugate bases are the hypochlorite, chlorite, chlorate and perchlorate ions. This system has partially fallen out of use, but survives in the common names of many chemical compounds: the modern literature contains few references to "ferric chloride" (instead calling it "iron(III) chloride"), but names like "potassium permanganate" (instead of "potassium manganate(VII)") and "sulfuric acid" abound.

Traditional naming

Naming simple ionic compounds

An ionic compound is named by its cation followed by its anion. See polyatomic ion for a list of possible ions.

For cations that take on multiple charges, the charge is written using Roman numerals in parentheses immediately following the element name. For example, Cu(NO3)2 is copper(II) nitrate, because the charge of two nitrate ions (NO
) is 2 × −1 = −2, and since the net charge of the ionic compound must be zero, the Cu ion has a 2+ charge. This compound is therefore copper(II) nitrate. In the case of cations with a +4 oxidation state, the only acceptable format for the Roman numeral 4 is IV and not IIII.

The Roman numerals in fact show the oxidation number, but in simple ionic compounds (i.e., not metal complexes) this will always equal the ionic charge on the metal. For a simple overview see [1], for more details see selected pages from IUPAC rules for naming inorganic compounds.

List of common ion names

Monatomic anions:


Polyatomic ions:

hydrogen sulfite (or bisulfite)
hydrogen carbonate (or bicarbonate)
hydrogen phosphate
dihydrogen phosphate

Naming hydrates

Hydrates are ionic compounds that have absorbed water. They are named as the ionic compound followed by a numerical prefix and -hydrate. The numerical prefixes used are listed below (see IUPAC numerical multiplier):

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

For example, CuSO4·5H2O is "copper(II) sulfate pentahydrate".

Naming molecular compounds

Inorganic molecular compounds are named with a prefix (see list above) before each element. The more electronegative element is written last and with an -ide suffix. For example, H2O (water) can be called dihydrogen monoxide. Organic molecules do not follow this rule. In addition, the prefix mono- is not used with the first element; for example, SO2 is sulfur dioxide, not "monosulfur dioxide". Sometimes prefixes are shortened when the ending vowel of the prefix "conflicts" with a starting vowel in the compound. This makes the name easier to pronounce; for example, CO is "carbon monoxide" (as opposed to "monooxide").

Common exceptions

There are a number of exceptions and special cases that violate the above rules. Sometimes the prefix is left off of the initial atom: I2O5 is known as iodine pentoxide, but it should be called diiodine pentoxide. N2O3 is called nitrogen sesquioxide (sesqui- means ​1 12).

The main oxide of phosphorus is called phosphorus pentoxide. It should actually be diphosphorus pentoxide, but it is assumed that there are two phosphorus atoms (P2O5), as they are needed in order to balance the oxidation numbers of the five oxygen atoms. However, people have known for years that the real form of the molecule is P4O10, not P2O5, yet it is not normally called tetraphosphorus decaoxide.

In writing formulas, ammonia is NH3 even though nitrogen is more electronegative (in line with the convention used by IUPAC as detailed in Table VI of the red book). Likewise, methane is written as CH4 even though carbon is more electronegative (Hill system).

Nomenclature of Inorganic Chemistry

The front cover of the 2005 edition of the Red Book

Nomenclature of Inorganic Chemistry, commonly referred to by chemists as the Red Book, is a collection of recommendations on IUPAC nomenclature, published at irregular intervals by the IUPAC. The last full edition was published in 2005,[2] in both paper and electronic versions.

Published editions
Release year Title Publisher ISBN
2005 Recommendations 2005 (Red Book) RSC Publishing 0-85404-438-8
2001 Recommendations 2000 (Red Book II)
RSC Publishing 0-85404-487-6
1990 Recommendations 1990 (Red Book I) Blackwell 0-632-02494-1
1971 Definitive Rules 1970  [2] Butterworth 0-408-70168-4
1959 1957 Rules Butterworth
1940/1941 1940 Rules Scientific journals

See also


  1. ^ Nomenclature of Inorganic Chemistry IUPAC Recommendations 2005 - Full text (PDF)
    2004 version with separate chapters as pdf: IUPAC Provisional Recommendations for the Nomenclature of Inorganic Chemistry (2004) Archived 2008-02-19 at the Wayback Machine
  2. ^ International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry (2005). Nomenclature of Inorganic Chemistry (IUPAC Recommendations 2005). Cambridge (UK): RSCIUPAC. ISBN 0-85404-438-8. Electronic version.

External links


Aluminium (aluminum in American and Canadian English) is a chemical element with the symbol Al and atomic number 13. It is a silvery-white, soft, non-magnetic and ductile metal in the boron group. By mass, aluminium makes up about 8% of the Earth's crust; it is the third most abundant element after oxygen and silicon and the most abundant metal in the crust, though it is less common in the mantle below. The chief ore of aluminium is bauxite. Aluminium metal is highly reactive, such that native specimens are rare and limited to extreme reducing environments. Instead, it is found combined in over 270 different minerals.Aluminium is remarkable for its low density and its ability to resist corrosion through the phenomenon of passivation. Aluminium and its alloys are vital to the aerospace industry and important in transportation and building industries, such as building facades and window frames. The oxides and sulfates are the most useful compounds of aluminium.Despite its prevalence in the environment, no known form of life uses aluminium salts metabolically, but aluminium is well tolerated by plants and animals. Because of these salts' abundance, the potential for a biological role for them is of continuing interest, and studies continue.


In inorganic chemistry, bicarbonate (IUPAC-recommended nomenclature: hydrogencarbonate) is an intermediate form in the deprotonation of carbonic acid. It is a polyatomic anion with the chemical formula HCO−3.

Bicarbonate serves a crucial biochemical role in the physiological pH buffering system.The term "bicarbonate" was coined in 1814 by the English chemist William Hyde Wollaston. The prefix "bi" in "bicarbonate" comes from an outdated naming system and is based on the observation that there is twice as much carbonate (CO2−3) per sodium ion in sodium bicarbonate (NaHCO3) and other bicarbonates than in sodium carbonate (Na2CO3) and other carbonates. The name lives on as a trivial name.

According to the Wikipedia article IUPAC nomenclature of inorganic chemistry, the prefix bi– is a deprecated way of indicating the presence of a single hydrogen ion. The recommended nomenclature today mandates explicit referencing of the presence of the single hydrogen ion: sodium hydrogen carbonate or sodium hydrogencarbonate. A parallel example is sodium bisulfite (NaHSO3).

Chemical formula

A chemical formula is a way of presenting information about the chemical proportions of atoms that constitute a particular chemical compound or molecule, using chemical element symbols, numbers, and sometimes also other symbols, such as parentheses, dashes, brackets, commas and plus (+) and minus (−) signs. These are limited to a single typographic line of symbols, which may include subscripts and superscripts. A chemical formula is not a chemical name, and it contains no words. Although a chemical formula may imply certain simple chemical structures, it is not the same as a full chemical structural formula. Chemical formulas can fully specify the structure of only the simplest of molecules and chemical substances, and are generally more limited in power than are chemical names and structural formulas.

The simplest types of chemical formulas are called empirical formulas, which use letters and numbers indicating the numerical proportions of atoms of each type. Molecular formulas indicate the simple numbers of each type of atom in a molecule, with no information on structure. For example, the empirical formula for glucose is CH2O (twice as many hydrogen atoms as carbon and oxygen), while its molecular formula is C6H12O6 (12 hydrogen atoms, six carbon and oxygen atoms).

Sometimes a chemical formula is complicated by being written as a condensed formula (or condensed molecular formula, occasionally called a "semi-structural formula"), which conveys additional information about the particular ways in which the atoms are chemically bonded together, either in covalent bonds, ionic bonds, or various combinations of these types. This is possible if the relevant bonding is easy to show in one dimension. An example is the condensed molecular/chemical formula for ethanol, which is CH3-CH2-OH or CH3CH2OH. However, even a condensed chemical formula is necessarily limited in its ability to show complex bonding relationships between atoms, especially atoms that have bonds to four or more different substituents.

Since a chemical formula must be expressed as a single line of chemical element symbols, it often cannot be as informative as a true structural formula, which is a graphical representation of the spatial relationship between atoms in chemical compounds (see for example the figure for butane structural and chemical formulas, at right). For reasons of structural complexity, a single condensed chemical formula (or semi-structural formula) may correspond to different molecules, known as isomers. For example glucose shares its molecular formula C6H12O6 with a number of other sugars, including fructose, galactose and mannose. Linear equivalent chemical names exist that can and do specify uniquely any complex structural formula (see chemical nomenclature), but such names must use many terms (words), rather than the simple element symbols, numbers, and simple typographical symbols that define a chemical formula.

Chemical formulas may be used in chemical equations to describe chemical reactions and other chemical transformations, such as the dissolving of ionic compounds into solution. While, as noted, chemical formulas do not have the full power of structural formulas to show chemical relationships between atoms, they are sufficient to keep track of numbers of atoms and numbers of electrical charges in chemical reactions, thus balancing chemical equations so that these equations can be used in chemical problems involving conservation of atoms, and conservation of electric charge.

Chemical nomenclature

A chemical nomenclature is a set of rules to generate systematic names for chemical compounds. The nomenclature used most frequently worldwide is the one created and developed by the International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry (IUPAC).

The IUPAC's rules for naming organic and inorganic compounds are contained in two publications, known as the Blue Book and the Red Book, respectively. A third publication, known as the Green Book, describes the recommendations for the use of symbols for physical quantities (in association with the IUPAP), while a fourth, the Gold Book, contains the definitions of many technical terms used in chemistry. Similar compendia exist for biochemistry (the White Book, in association with the IUBMB), analytical chemistry (the Orange Book), macromolecular chemistry (the Purple Book) and clinical chemistry (the Silver Book). These "color books" are supplemented by shorter recommendations for specific circumstances that are published periodically in the journal Pure and Applied Chemistry.

Coordination complex

In chemistry, a coordination complex consists of a central atom or ion, which is usually metallic and is called the coordination centre, and a surrounding array of bound molecules or ions, that are in turn known as ligands or complexing agents. Many metal-containing compounds, especially those of transition metals, are coordination complexes. A coordination complex whose centre is a metal atom is called a metal complex.

Coordination geometry

The term coordination geometry is used in a number of related fields of chemistry and solid state chemistry/physics.

Dihydrogen monoxide parody

The dihydrogen monoxide parody involves calling water by the unfamiliar chemical name "dihydrogen monoxide" (DHMO), or "hydroxylic acid" in some cases, and listing some of water's well-known effects in a particularly alarming manner, such as accelerating corrosion and causing suffocation. The parody often calls for dihydrogen monoxide to be banned, regulated, or labeled as dangerous. It demonstrates how a lack of scientific literacy and an exaggerated analysis can lead to misplaced fears.

IUPAC nomenclature of chemistry

The International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry (IUPAC) has published four sets of rules to standardize chemical nomenclature.

There are two main areas:

IUPAC nomenclature of inorganic chemistry (Red Book)

IUPAC nomenclature of organic chemistry (Blue Book)

IUPAC nomenclature of inorganic chemistry 2005

Nomenclature of Inorganic Chemistry, IUPAC Recommendations 2005 is the 2005 version of Nomenclature of Inorganic Chemistry (which is informally called the Red Book). It is a collection of rules for naming inorganic compounds, as recommended by the International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry (IUPAC).

IUPAC nomenclature of organic chemistry

In chemical nomenclature, the IUPAC nomenclature of organic chemistry is a systematic method of naming organic chemical compounds as recommended by the International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry (IUPAC). It is published in the Nomenclature of Organic Chemistry (informally called the Blue Book). Ideally, every possible organic compound should have a name from which an unambiguous structural formula can be created. There is also an IUPAC nomenclature of inorganic chemistry.

To avoid long and tedious names in normal communication, the official IUPAC naming recommendations are not always followed in practice, except when it is necessary to give an unambiguous and absolute definition to a compound. IUPAC names can sometimes be simpler than older names, as with ethanol, instead of ethyl alcohol. For relatively simple molecules they can be more easily understood than non-systematic names, which must be learnt or looked up. However, the common or trivial name is often substantially shorter and clearer, and so preferred. These non-systematic names are often derived from an original source of the compound. In addition, very long names may be less clear than structural formulae.

International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry

The International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry (IUPAC ) is an international federation of National Adhering Organizations that represents chemists in individual countries. It is a member of the International Council for Science (ICSU). IUPAC is registered in Zürich, Switzerland, and the administrative office, known as the "IUPAC Secretariat", is in Research Triangle Park, North Carolina, United States. This administrative office is headed by IUPAC's executive director, currently Lynn Soby.IUPAC was established in 1919 as the successor of the International Congress of Applied Chemistry for the advancement of chemistry. Its members, the National Adhering Organizations, can be national chemistry societies, national academies of sciences, or other bodies representing chemists. There are fifty-four National Adhering Organizations and three Associate National Adhering Organizations. IUPAC's Inter-divisional Committee on Nomenclature and Symbols (IUPAC nomenclature) is the recognized world authority in developing standards for the naming of the chemical elements and compounds. Since its creation, IUPAC has been run by many different committees with different responsibilities. These committees run different projects which include standardizing nomenclature, finding ways to bring chemistry to the world, and publishing works.IUPAC is best known for its works standardizing nomenclature in chemistry and other fields of science, but IUPAC has publications in many fields including chemistry, biology and physics. Some important work IUPAC has done in these fields includes standardizing nucleotide base sequence code names; publishing books for environmental scientists, chemists, and physicists; and improving education in science. IUPAC is also known for standardizing the atomic weights of the elements through one of its oldest standing committees, the Commission on Isotopic Abundances and Atomic Weights (CIAAW).


Isotopes are variants of a particular chemical element which differ in neutron number, and consequently in nucleon number. All isotopes of a given element have the same number of protons but different numbers of neutrons in each atom.The term isotope is formed from the Greek roots isos (ἴσος "equal") and topos (τόπος "place"), meaning "the same place"; thus, the meaning behind the name is that different isotopes of a single element occupy the same position on the periodic table. It was coined by a Scottish doctor and writer Margaret Todd in 1913 in a suggestion to chemist Frederick Soddy.

The number of protons within the atom's nucleus is called atomic number and is equal to the number of electrons in the neutral (non-ionized) atom. Each atomic number identifies a specific element, but not the isotope; an atom of a given element may have a wide range in its number of neutrons. The number of nucleons (both protons and neutrons) in the nucleus is the atom's mass number, and each isotope of a given element has a different mass number.

For example, carbon-12, carbon-13, and carbon-14 are three isotopes of the element carbon with mass numbers 12, 13, and 14, respectively. The atomic number of carbon is 6, which means that every carbon atom has 6 protons, so that the neutron numbers of these isotopes are 6, 7, and 8 respectively.

Nitric oxide

Nitric oxide (nitrogen oxide or nitrogen monoxide) is a colorless gas with the formula NO. It is one of the principal oxides of nitrogen. Nitric oxide is a free radical, i.e., it has an unpaired electron, which is sometimes denoted by a dot in its chemical formula, i.e., ·NO. Nitric oxide is also a heteronuclear diatomic molecule, a historic class that drew researches which spawned early modern theories of chemical bonding.An important intermediate in chemical industry, nitric oxide forms in combustion systems and can be generated by lightning in thunderstorms. In mammals, including humans, nitric oxide is a signaling molecule in many physiological and pathological processes. It was proclaimed the "Molecule of the Year" in 1992. The 1998 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine was awarded for discovering nitric oxide's role as a cardiovascular signalling molecule.

Nitric oxide should not be confused with nitrous oxide (N2O), an anesthetic, or with nitrogen dioxide (NO2), a brown gas and claimed to be a major air pollutant.

Peroxynitrous acid

Peroxynitrous acid (HNO3) is a reactive nitrogen species (RNS). It is the conjugate acid of peroxynitrite (ONOO−). It has a pKa of ~6.8. It is formed in vivo from the diffusion-controlled reaction of nitrogen monoxide (ON•) and superoxide (O•−2). It isomerises with a rate constant of k = 1.2 s−1, a process whereby up to 5% of hydroxyl and nitrogen dioxide radicals may be formed. It oxidises and nitrates aromatic compounds in low yield. The mechanism may involve a complex between the aromatic compound and ONOOH, and a transition from the cis- to the trans-configuration of ONOOH. Peroxynitrous acid is also important in atmospheric chemistry.

It is an isomer of nitric acid.

Roman numerals

Roman numerals are a numeral system that originated in ancient Rome and remained the usual way of writing numbers throughout Europe well into the Late Middle Ages. Numbers in this system are represented by combinations of letters from the Latin alphabet. Modern usage employs seven symbols, each with a fixed integer value:

The use of Roman numerals continued long after the decline of the Roman Empire. From the 14th century on, Roman numerals began to be replaced in most contexts by the more convenient Arabic numerals; however, this process was gradual, and the use of Roman numerals persists in some minor applications to this day.

One place they are often seen is on clock faces. For instance, on the clock of Big Ben (designed in 1852), the hours from 1 to 12 are written as:

I, II, III, IV, V, VI, VII, VIII, IX, X, XI, XIIThe notations IV and IX can be read as "one less than five" (4) and "one less than ten" (9), although there is a strong tradition favouring representation of "4" as "IIII" on Roman numeral clocks.Other common uses include year numbers on monuments and buildings and copyright dates on the title screens of movies and television programs. MCM, signifying "a thousand, and a hundred less than another thousand", means 1900, so 1912 is written MCMXII. For this century, MM indicates 2000. Thus the current year is MMXIX (2019).

Stock nomenclature

Stock nomenclature for inorganic compounds is a widely used system of chemical nomenclature developed by the German chemist Alfred Stock and first published in 1919. In the "Stock system", the oxidation states of some or all of the elements in a compound are indicated in parentheses by Roman numerals.

Valence (chemistry)

In chemistry, the valence or valency of an element is a measure of its combining power with other atoms when it forms chemical compounds or molecules. The concept of valence was developed in the second half of the 19th century and helped successfully explain the molecular structure of inorganic and organic compounds.

The quest for the underlying causes of valence led to the modern theories of chemical bonding, including the cubical atom (1902), Lewis structures (1916), valence bond theory (1927), molecular orbitals (1928), valence shell electron pair repulsion theory (1958), and all of the advanced methods of quantum chemistry.


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