What Is a Covalent Compound?

Understand the different kinds of chemical compounds

Water is an example of a covalent compound.
Jynto/Wikimedia Commons/Public Domain

A covalent compound is a molecule formed by covalent bonds, in which the atoms share one or more pairs of valence electrons.

The Different Kinds of Compounds

Chemical compounds are generally grouped into one of two categories: covalent compounds and ionic compounds. Ionic compounds are made up of electrically charged atoms or molecules as a result of gaining or losing electrons. Ions of opposite charges form ionic compounds, usually as a result of a metal reacting with a nonmetal.

Covalent, or molecular, compounds generally result from two nonmetals reacting with each other. The elements form a compound by sharing electrons, resulting in an electrically neutral molecule. 

The History of Covalent Compounds

American physical chemist Gilbert N. Lewis first described covalent bonding in a 1916 article, though he didn't use that term. American chemist Irving Langmuir first used the term covalence in reference to bonding in a 1919 article in the Journal of the American Chemical Society.


Water, sucrose, and DNA are examples of covalent compounds.

mla apa chicago
Your Citation
Helmenstine, Anne Marie, Ph.D. "What Is a Covalent Compound?" ThoughtCo, Aug. 25, 2020, thoughtco.com/definition-of-covalent-compound-604415. Helmenstine, Anne Marie, Ph.D. (2020, August 25). What Is a Covalent Compound? Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/definition-of-covalent-compound-604415 Helmenstine, Anne Marie, Ph.D. "What Is a Covalent Compound?" ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/definition-of-covalent-compound-604415 (accessed June 5, 2023).