What is a Chemical Compound?

Article Details
  • Written By: Michael Anissimov
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 14 October 2019
  • Copyright Protected:
    Conjecture Corporation
  • Print this Article
Free Widgets for your Site/Blog
Scientists use the term "boring billion" to describe when evolution stalled and life on Earth was basically slime.  more...

November 12 ,  1927 :  Joseph Stalin became the leader of the Soviet Union.  more...

A chemical compound is a type of molecule (collection of bonded atoms) made up of more than one element. For instance, water (H2O) is a compound, whereas diatomic hydrogen (H2) is not. Most of the atoms that make up the Earth’s crust and living organisms are in compound form. Compounds are represented by molecular formulae which list the constituent atoms and their abundance.

Depending on the atoms, a compound may be held together by different chemical bonds. Bonds are formed through the interactions of atomic electron shells in various orbital configurations. Depending on the number of electrons orbiting the nucleus of the atom and the amount of space in the orbitals, certain atoms are prone to bonding with certain other types of atoms. Lewis dots, a graphical system of representing compound bond types, named after the chemist Gilbert Lewis, is often taught in High School chemistry classes. The existence of chemical bonds has been speculated about since at least the 12th century, although the entire field was poorly understood until the concept of electron bonds was introduced by Lewis in 1916.

When an atom possesses a “full” electron shell, it is very nonreactive and tends not to bond to other atoms. These elements can be found on the far right of the Periodic Table and are called the noble gases. Examples include helium, neon, and argon.


In chemical compounds, the most common type of bond is a covalent bond, where both constituent atoms have similar electronegativity, resulting in an even sharing of electrons. Electron orbitals overlap, and a single electron may orbit both atomic nuclei, not belonging to either exclusively. An example of a molecule held together by covalent bonds is diamond. A second type of bond, the ionic bond, occurs in atoms with significant differences in electronegativity, where that one atom dominates the supply of electrons. These tend to be slightly weaker than covalent bonds. An example is sodium chloride, or salt.

Other bond types exist: metallic bonds, van der Waals forces, and several others. Together, these make up all the chemical compounds in the universe.


You might also Like


Discuss this Article

Post 3

@ Istria- It looks like your professor gave you a few chemical compounds in a sentence and asked to write them out as a chemical formula. I can help you with Nitrous acid.

Nitrous acid is HNO2 (little two), and is an oxyacid. Oxyacids are just hydrogen molecules attached to a polyatomic ion containing oxygen. The rules for naming these are as simple as the rules given by Valley Fiah for naming binary acids. All you have to do is add the word acid, and switch the suffix. Unlike binary acids, you don't have to add hydro to the beginning of the word.

When you swap the suffixes just remember that -ate- is replaced by -ic- and -ite- is replaced by -ous-. So HNO3 (little three) is called nitric acid and HNO2 is called nitrous acid.

Post 2

@ Istria- You actually may not find Hydrobromide acid ina search. The compound formula for Hydrobromic Acid is HBr. Hydrobromic acid is a binary acid. Binary acids are named based on the hydrogen atom and the other non-metal present in the compound.

Binary acids are always composed of Hydrogen and a single non-metal. When naming binary acids, you always use the hydro suffix to signify hydrogen, add the second element, and end the name with the -ic prefix.

The other binary acids are Hydrochloric acid, Hydrofluoric acid, Hydroiodic acid, and Hydrosulfuric acid. I hope this helps you.

Post 1

Does anyone know the formula for Hydrobromide acid? I also need to figure out the formula for Nitrous acid. I have a chemical compound exercise due, but more importantly, all of this stuff is going to be on my mid-term. I can easily look up the formula, but I also want to know why the formulas are written and named the way they are. Someone please help.

Post your comments

Post Anonymously


forgot password?