You are familiar with the names of many chemical compounds. Recall that a compound is two or more elements that have been chemically combined. Water is a chemical compound and you probably know that its chemical formula is H2O. That formula tells you that water is composed of the elements hydrogen and oxygen. However, the physical and chemical properties of liquid water are nothing like the properties of hydrogen and oxygen, which are both gases. Water is an example of a common name that is given to a compound because it is something that everybody is accustomed to seeing and using every day. Yet there are millions of known chemical compounds out there. To give each and every one of them a common name would be a hopeless and confusing task. The figure above is a famous painting of French chemist Antoine Lavoisier (1743-1794) and his wife. Lavoisier is generally considered to be the founder of modern chemistry. Among his many accomplishments was the recognition that a systematic method was needed for naming the ever-increasing number of chemical compounds that were being created. Such a naming system is called nomenclature. This chapter will teach you the rules of nomenclature and allow you to name and write formulas for many simple chemical compounds.
Opening image by Jacques-Louis David. Public Domain.