NomenclatureSee also: IUPAC nomenclature
The names of organic compounds are either systematic, following logically from a set of rules, or nonsystematic, following various traditions. Systematic nomenclature is stipulated by specifications from IUPAC. Systematic nomenclature starts with the name for a parent structure within the molecule of interest. This parent name is then modified by prefixes, suffixes, and numbers to unambiguously convey the structure. Given that millions of organic compounds are known, rigorous use of systematic names can be cumbersome. Thus, IUPAC recommendations are more closely followed for simple compounds, but not complex molecules. To use the systematic naming, one must know the structures and names of the parent structures. Parent structures include unsubstituted hydrocarbons, heterocycles, and monofunctionalized derivatives thereof.
Nonsystematic nomenclature is simpler and unambiguous, at least to organic chemists. Nonsystematic names do not indicate the structure of the compound. Nonsystematic names are common for complex molecules, which includes most natural products. Thus, the informally named lysergic acid diethylamide is systematically named (6aR,9R)-N,N-diethyl-7-methyl-4,6,6a,7,8,9-hexahydroindolo- quinoline-9-carboxamide.
With the increased use of computing, other naming methods have evolved that are intended to be interpreted by machines. Two popular formats are SMILES and InChI.
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