Nomenclature: Ethers


As covered in the functional group section, ethers are molecules in which an oxygen atom is bonded to two alkyl (or aryl) groups. In the case of the cyclic ethers, these alkyl chains are connected.

Although there are IUPAC rules for the nomenclature of ethers, these are not always covered in introductory organic chemistry. Instead, you’ll usually be tested on the common names of ethers.

For naming ethers, you’ll want to have memorized the names of common alkyl substituents. You can revise the naming of alkyl substituents in the sections on the nomenclature of branched alkanes (part I and part II). The common alkyl substituents are also listed in the following table. Notice that you can also have cyclic alkanes as substituents, as well as aromatic (or aryl) substituents (such as the phenyl substituent).

Ether Substituents



The common names of ethers are assigned by listing the two substituents on the oxygen (in alphabetical order, with a space separating them), adding a space, and then finishing with the word “ether”.

For example:

Ethyl Methyl Ether

If the two substituents on the oxygen are the same, then place the prefix di- before the name of that substituent. For example:

Diisopropyl Ether