How do I name compounds?

2 min readdecember 17, 2021

AP Chemistry 🧪

269 resources
See Units

Nomenclature for Naming Ionic Compounds 💡


  • Keep the name of the cation (the ion that loses valence electrons). This is usually the first part of the chemical formula.
  • Cut off the end of the anion's name and add the -ide suffix.
  • If the anion is a polyatomic ion, don't change the name.

Examples of Naming Ionic Compounds

NaCl - sodium chloride Al₂Se₃ - aluminum selenide LiH - lithium hydride NH₄NO₃ - ammonium nitrate CaCO₃ - calcium carbonate

For cations with multiple charges:

  • Check out this Resonance and Formal Charges Study Guide to learn more
  • Sometimes, cations can have multiple charges. For example, iron can have a +2 or a +3 charge. Most transition metals will have multiple charges, besides some exceptions like Zn²⁺ and Ag⁺.
  • If a cation can have different charges, include its charge in the compound after the actual name of the cation. Write it in roman numerals between parentheses.
  • To help you figure out the charge of the cation, keep in mind that the total charge of the cation(s) should be the same magnitude as the total charge of the anion(s). Pay attention to subscripts!
  • Here are a few examples:
VO - vanadium(II) oxide FeCl₃ - iron(III) chloride Cu₃P₂ - copper(II) phosphide MnSO₄ - manganese(II) sulfate

Nomenclature for Naming Molecular Compounds 🔬


  • Keep the name of the first element the same.
  • Cut off the end of the second element and add the -ide suffix.
  • Now, add the correct prefix to both elements based on their subscripts:
1: mono- 2: di- 3: tri- 4: tetra- 5: penta- 6: hexa- 7: hepta- 8: octo- 9: nona- 10: deca-
  • If there's only one atom of the first element, you don't need the mono- prefix. For example, NO₂ is nitrogen dioxide, not mononitrogen dioxide.

Examples for Naming Molecular Compounds

P₃O₅ - triphosphorus pentoxide S₂O₆ - disulfur hexoxide CO₂ - carbon dioxide SiO - silicon monoxide

Browse Study Guides By Unit
⚛️Unit 1 – Atomic Structure & Properties
🤓Unit 2 – Molecular & Ionic Bonding
🌀Unit 3 – Intermolecular Forces & Properties
🧪Unit 4 – Chemical Reactions
👟Unit 5 – Kinetics
🔥Unit 6 – Thermodynamics
⚖️Unit 7 – Equilibrium
🍊Unit 8 – Acids & Bases
🔋Unit 9 – Applications of Thermodynamics
✏️Frequently Asked Questions
✍️Free Response Questions
🧐Multiple Choice Questions
📆Big Reviews: Finals & Exam Prep

Stay Connected

© 2023 Fiveable Inc. All rights reserved.

© 2023 Fiveable Inc. All rights reserved.