10 Molecules with Funny or Weird Names

Chemists Have a Sense of Humor

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Helmenstine, Anne Marie, Ph.D. "10 Molecules with Funny or Weird Names." ThoughtCo, Feb. 28, 2017, thoughtco.com/molecules-with-funny-or-weird-names-608523. Helmenstine, Anne Marie, Ph.D. (2017, February 28). 10 Molecules with Funny or Weird Names. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/molecules-with-funny-or-weird-names-608523 Helmenstine, Anne Marie, Ph.D. "10 Molecules with Funny or Weird Names." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/molecules-with-funny-or-weird-names-608523 (accessed September 22, 2017).
Everything is made up of atoms, which bond together to make molecules. While chemists follow stringent rules in naming compounds, sometimes the name winds up funny or else the original name is so complicated, it's easier to call a molecule by the shape it takes. Here are some of my favorite examples of molecules with funny or downright weird names.
01
of 10

Penguinone

This is the chemical structure of penguinone or 3,4,4,5-tetramethylcyclohexa-2,5-dien-1-one.
This is the chemical structure of penguinone or 3,4,4,5-tetramethylcyclohexa-2,5-dien-1-one. Todd Helmenstine

You could call this molecule 3,4,4,5-tetramethylcyclohexa-2,5-dien-1-one, but its common name is penguinone. It is a penguin-shaped ketone. Cute, right?

02
of 10

Moronic Acid

Moronic acid is a naturally-occurring triterpene found in the sumac plant and mistletoe.
Moronic acid is a naturally-occurring triterpene found in the sumac plant and mistletoe. Edgar181, Wikipedia Commons
You can find moronic acid in mistletoe and sumac. It would be moronic to eat mistletoe or poison sumac. Moronic acid is a triterpenoid organic acid that occurs in Pistacia resin, which is found in ancient artifacts and shipwrecks.
03
of 10

Arsole

This is the chemical structure of arsole.
This is the chemical structure of arsole. cacycle, Wikipedia Commons

Arsole gets its name because it's a ring compound (-ole) based from arsenic. Arsoles are moderately aromatic pyrrole molecules. There is a paper on these compounds: "Studies on the Chemistry of the Arsoles", G. Markland and H. Hauptmann, J. Organomet. Chem.248 (1983) 269. Can the title of a scientific paper get better than that?

This is the chemical structure of fenestrane.
This is the chemical structure of fenestrane. Todd Helmenstine

The real name of "broken windowpane" is fenestrane, but the structure bears a striking resemblance to my kitchen window when my son put a broom handle through one of the panes. "Broken windowpane" has been synthesized, although the unbroken form, named "windowpane", only exists on paper. More »

05
of 10

SEX

This is the chemical structure of SEX.
This is the chemical structure of SEX (sodium ethyl xanthate). Todd Helmenstine

This one is an acryonym for sodium ethyl xanate. That is not a difficult name, as molecules go, but it's much more fun to call this molecule by its initials.

There's also a molecule that doesn't exit in nature that looks like the word sex written out.

06
of 10

DEAD

DEAD Chemical Structure
This is the chemical structure of DiEthyl AzoDicarboxylate or DEAD. Todd Helmenstine

DEAD is the acronym for the molecule diethyl azodicarboxylate. In addition to resembling a dead frog opened for dissection in biology class, DEAD can make you dead. It's a shock-sensitive explosive, plus it's toxic and can give you cancer. Fun stuff!

07
of 10

Diurea

This is the chemical structure of diurea.
This is the chemical structure of diurea. Todd Helmenstine

This one gets its name because it's essentially two urea molecules bonded together, although its proper chemical name is N,N'-dicarbamoylhydrazine. Diurea is used to improve flow in grease and paint and may be spread around crops as a fertilizer. In other words, your house is painted with diurea and the food you eat grew in it. A related compound, ethylene diurea, is used as an antiozonant, which means it helps counteract harmful effects of ozone on crops.

08
of 10

Periodic Acid

Orthoperiodic Acid Chemical Structure
This is the chemical structure of orthoperiodic acid. Todd Helmenstine

Here's a molecule with a perfect name for chemistry! Although you might be tempted to pronounce the name periodic, like the periodic table, it's really per-iodic, like what you get when you combine peroxide and iodine.

09
of 10

Megaphone

This is the chemical structure of megaphone.
This is the chemical structure of megaphone. Todd Helmenstine

Megaphone is a naturally-occurring compound found in the roots of Aniba megaphylla. It's a ketone, so combining these two facts yields its name.

10
of 10

Angelic Acid

This is the chemical structure of angelic acid.
This is the chemical structure of angelic acid. Todd Helmenstine

Angelic acid is an organic acid that gets its name from the garden flower angelica (Angelica archangelica). The acid was first isolated from this plant. It's found in herbal preparations as a tonic and sedative. Despite its sweet name, angelic acid has a sour taste and a pungent odor.

More Funny Molecule Names

That's just the tip of the iceberg. There are millions of known molecules and hundreds, if not thousands, that have weird names.