Definition of organic compound


An organic compound is a type of chemical compound that contains carbon atoms, usually bonded to hydrogen atoms and often in long chains.

Many also contain oxygen, nitrogen, sulfur, and phosphorus atoms. The study of organic compounds is central to organic chemistry. Examples of organic compounds include proteins, nucleic acids, carbohydrates, and fats, as well as man-made substances such as plastics and synthetic fibers.

Category/Context: Organic Chemistry, Biochemistry

Related Terms

Inorganic Compound, Hydrocarbon, Functional Group, Polymer, Alkane, Alkene, Alkyne, Aromatic Compound

Examples/Applications: Organic compounds are everywhere in daily life, making up many of the foods we eat, the fuels we use, and the materials in our clothes and homes. They are the basis of life and are involved in all biochemical processes.

Student Level: This definition is suitable for high school and undergraduate chemistry students.

Etymology/History: The term "organic" was historically used to refer to compounds derived from living organisms. With the advancement of chemistry, the definition expanded to include all compounds containing carbon, regardless of their origin.

source: The New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, Third Edition Edited by E.D. Hirsch, Jr., Joseph F. Kett, and James Trefil. Copyright © 2002 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin. All rights reserved. Organic compound | chemistry. (n.d.). Encyclopedia Britannica. Link Organic Compounds. (n.d.). Chemistry LibreTexts. Link