Tag Archives: carboxylic acids

Common Names of Carboxylic Acids

Ever wondered why ‘formic acid’ is so-called? Or montanic acid? Or melissic acid? This handy A3 poster shows you the Latin/Greek/Persian origins of each of the carboxylic acids’ common names from ‘formic acid’ (no. 1) to ‘hexatriacontylic acid’ (no. 36). Each acid comes with a cute graphical description of where its name comes from.

Common Names of Carboxylic Acids
Click to enlarge

There are some interesting origin stories behind each of these names. Formic acid, for example, is found in insect stings (hence the name). Palmitic acid is found in palm trees (hence the name), and myristic acid is found in nutmeg.

Three of the carboxylic acids are named after goats: caproic acid, caprylic acid and capric acid. Together, these three molecules comprise 15% of the fatty acids found in goats’ milk, and many reports also suggest that they smell ‘goat-like’!

Many of the odd-numbered higher carboxylic acids are rarer in nature and thus didn’t earn a common name until recently. Undecylic acid, for example, which has eleven carbon atoms in its backbone, is named simply after the Greek word for ‘eleven’.

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Infographic: Table of Esters and Their Smells v2 (200+ smells!)

Table of Esters and Their Smells v2
Click to download the high-res PDF version (1.8Mb)

This updated version of my Table of Esters and Their Smells contains 200+ smells from nearly as many esters.

Best of all are the phenylacetates that I’ve added, which smell like honey, chocolate and jasmine. I’ve also freshened up the fonts and added text labels where they were necessary. Take a look! 🙂

If you have any questions about this chart, just drop me an email or join the Reddit discussion here.

Feel free to use it as you wish. 😉