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Trivial Nomenclature System

Last updated date: 17th May 2024
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Trivial Nomenclature System: Naming Organic Compounds

The Trivial Nomenclature system employs a non-systematic approach to organic compound naming. There is no such thing as a set of guidelines for writing the trivial naming of compounds. 

The names of organic substances are simplified using this method. Examples include phenol, acetic acid, and toluene.

The names of compounds designated using trivial nomenclature are frequently significantly shorter and simpler than the matching IUPAC nomenclature. As a result, this system is still relevant today.

Eg. According to the trivial system, tartaric acid is a kind of carboxylic acid that is commonly found in tamarind. 2,3-dihydroxy-1,4-Butanedioic acid would be the IUPAC nomenclature for tartaric acid.

Nomenclature of Organic Compounds

Choosing and naming a parent structure is the first step in naming an organic chemical systematic. In the case of parent hydrides, suffixes can be added to the basic name to indicate the exact structural changes required to form the compound in question.

Unlike systematic names, traditional names such as acetic acid, butane, and pyridine are widely used in industry and academics. Traditional names are kept when they are useful and fit into the broader pattern of systematic nomenclature.

The concept of preferred IUPAC names is described and applied in a methodical way, as well as a fundamentally new principle. The nomenclature that has been used by IUPAC so far has focused on making games that aren't confusing. This is in line with how the subject has changed over time.

Due to the rapid spread of information and the globalization of human activities, it was judged necessary in 1993 to develop a common language that would be useful in legal situations such as patents, export-import rules, environmental health and safety information, and so on.

Eg. Because the principal way of getting methyl alcohol was to distil it from wood, it was given the name wood spirit under the trivial nomenclature convention.


All compounds with carbon as the main ingredient are qualified as organic compounds. The functional or characteristic groups are made up of three elements: oxygen, hydrogen, and nitrogen. Other elements, such as halogens and sulfur, round out the organic compound's elemental core. Compounds with this set of atoms were the first to be applied with substitutive nomenclature. This nomenclature was so successful that it was extended to all elements in Groups 14, 15, 16, 17, and 13 to boron.

FAQs on Trivial Nomenclature System

1. What are the guidelines by IUPAC for nomenclature?

The nomenclature of compounds must follow a specific procedure as per the IUPAC Guidelines. A few of them are:

  • The Longest Chain Rule dictates that the parent hydrocarbon be found and then named. The parent chain of the compound in question is usually the longest carbon atom chain, whether it's a straight chain or a chain of any other shape.

  • The parent hydrocarbon chain's carbon atoms must be numbered using natural numbers, starting at the end with the carbon atom carrying the substituents assigned the lowest number.

  • Prefixes such as di, tri, etc. denote the total amount of the same substituent in the specified organic compounds.

  • The names of the substituents in the IUPAC nomenclature of the organic compounds are organized alphabetically.

  • The IUPAC Name of the Compound is written as follows:

Locant + Prefix + Root + Locant + Suffix

2. What is a Suffix?

In IUPAC nomenclature, a suffix is usually a functional group from the molecule that comes after the root. It is further subdivided into Primary and Secondary Suffix. 

  • A Primary Suffix, such as 'ane' in the case of alkanes, is written immediately after the word root.

  • After the primary suffix, a secondary suffix is added. An alkanol, for example, is a molecule that contains both an alkane and an alcohol group, with the alcohol group's secondary suffix 'ol'.

Similarly, a compound's suffix can be included in its IUPAC name.

3. What are the limitations of the Trivial Nomenclature System?

Several drawbacks of the Trivial Nomenclature System:

  • For a single chemical, there could be several different names. The various names for Phenol, such as hydroxybenzene and carbolic acid, are an example of this.

  • Only a few compounds in each group are covered by the Trivial nomenclature system. For example, formic acid and acetic acid are the common names for the first two members of the carboxylic acid group. Carboxylic acids with more atoms, on the other hand, have no trivial names.

  • In the trivial system, there are no specific rules for the name of complicated compounds.

4. What are the various types of Nomenclature?

The IUPAC terminology can be divided into three parts:

  • Compositional Nomenclature - As the name implies, they are chemical compound names based purely on their constituents. These compounds have names that are almost identical to salts. Nonetheless, the names have no bearing on the molecular composition of the substance.

  • Substitutive Nomenclature - Substitutive nomenclature refers to any chemical that modifies its parent hydride by replacing its hydrogen atoms with any substituent group.

  • Additive Nomenclature - These conventions aid in the naming of coordination compounds.

5. What is the importance of Nomenclature?

The term "nomenclature" refers to the act of identifying something. It's critical to be able to refer to it by a specific name. Working with distinct names for different species is critical, especially when working in a laboratory, hence Nomenclature is important.

Whether you choose the IUPAC or the simple system of naming for organic compounds, you can't deny the importance of having such names. The scientific process of naming numerous species, chemicals, and other things is known as nomenclature. It is critical to give each compound a name; otherwise, it will be quite difficult to distinguish between them.

6. What is the Longest Chain Rule in IUPAC nomenclature?

When following the IUPAC nomenclature convention, one should by identifying and naming the parent hydrocarbon group. The longest chain of carbon atoms is designated as the parent chain. This carbon chain may occur along a straight line or follow other norms of shape or structure. Regardless of the shape, however, the parent chain of a molecule will always be the one that includes the most number of carbon atoms.

7. What other name can a compound have other than IUPAC and trivial?

Officially, each chemical compound follows two distinct nomenclature procedures. These are the trivial system and IUPAC system. However, unofficially, a compound may have other names as well, by which they are commonly referred. 

These are designated as common names. To clarify, you need to know about an example, where a compound’s chemical name differs from its common name. You can consider acetone, which is the common name for 2-propanone. There are several other compounds as well, which have a different common names and IUPAC/trivial names.

8. Why do chemical compounds under trivial system have shorter names?

The trivial system of naming does not follow a distinct set of rules. Instead of difficult and long names for a compound, the trivial system prioritizes simplicity and convenience over accuracy. IUPAC system, on the other hand, relies on a strict set of rules that one must stick to when naming compounds under this convention. This is the reason why trivial system leads to shorter names when it comes to the nomenclature of organic compounds.