There are several ways to name organic chemicals, but the most widely used naming convention is the substitutive nomenclature system developed by the International Union of Pure and Applied Scientists (IUPAC). This system is vital because of the many isomers that can be formed by organic chemicals. Isomers will have the same chemical formula but a different structure, which causes them to have completely different chemical properties. To minimize misunderstandings, the IUPAC created a nomenclature that would be consistent around the world and account for these isomers.
In order to provide a unique name to every compound, the naming of a complex molecule can become an involved and challenging process. When this is the case, a compound is sometimes referred to its common name. This name comes from an older IUPAC naming convention called the common nomenclature system. This naming system is sometimes preferred because it is simpler than the substitutive nomenclature system. When this is the case, this book will present both substitutive and common names.
This book is not meant to provide a comprehensive look to the substitutive nomenclature system. Instead, this book will only present a very basic introduction to IUPAC nomenclature. Three things are important in naming organic compounds: the number of carbons, the bonds present, and the functional groups. In this section, the substitutive nomenclature rules for naming alkanes is presented. These rules form the basis of all other organic compounds.