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16.1: Naming the Benzenes

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  • Objectives

    After completing this section, you should be able to

    1. draw the structure of each of the common aromatic compounds in Figure 16 (Common benzene derived compounds with various substituents), given their IUPAC-accepted trivial names.
    2. write the IUPAC-accepted trivial name for each of the compounds in Figure 16, given the appropriate Kekulé, condensed or shorthand structure.
    3. identify the ortho, meta and para positions in a monosubstituted benzene ring.
    4. use the ortho/meta/para system to name simple disubstituted aromatic compounds.
    5. draw the structure of a simple disubstituted aromatic compound, given its name according to the ortho/meta/para system.
    6. provide the IUPAC name of a given aromatic compound containing any number of the following substituents: alkyl, alkenyl or alkynyl groups; halogens; nitro groups; carboxyl groups; amino groups; hydroxyl groups.
    7. draw the structure of an aromatic compound containing any number of the substituents listed in Objective 6, above, given the IUPAC name.
    8. provide the IUPAC name of a given aromatic compound in which the phenyl group is regarded as a substituent.
    9. draw the Kekulé, condensed or shorthand structure of an aromatic compound in which the phenyl group is regarded as a substituent, given its IUPAC name.

    Key Terms

    Make certain that you can define, and use in context, the key terms below.

    • arene
    • benzyl group
    • phenyl group

    Study Notes

    You should already know the names and structures of several of the hydrocarbons shown in Figure 15.1. A compound containing a benzene ring which has one or more alkyl substituents is called an arene.

    A phenyl group consists of a benzene ring with one of its hydrogens removed.

    phenyl group shown with three double bonds and then with a delocalized ring

    Figure 15.2: Two ways of representing a phenyl group

    You should memorize the structures and formulas shown in Figure 16. You will meet these compounds frequently throughout the remainder of this course.

    Note that the ortho/meta/para system cannot be used when more than two substituents are present in the benzene ring. The “numbering system” can be used instead of the ortho/meta/para system in most cases when only two substituents are present.

    Unlike aliphatic organics, nomenclature of benzene-derived compounds can be confusing because a single aromatic compound can have multiple possible names (such as common and systematic names) be associated with its structure. In these sections, we will analyze some of the ways these compounds can be named.

    Simple Benzene Naming

    Some common substituents, like NO2, Br, and Cl, can be named this way when it is attached to a phenyl group. Long chain carbons attached can also be named this way. The general format for this kind of naming is:

    (positions of substituents (if >1)- + # (di, tri, ...) + substituent)n + benzene.

    For example, chlorine (Cl) attached to a phenyl group would be named chlorobenzene (chloro + benzene). Since there is only one substituent on the benzene ring, we do not have to indicate its position on the benzene ring (as it can freely rotate around and you would end up getting the same compound.)

    Chlorobenzene (1).pngNitrobenzene (1).png
    Figure 8. Example of simple benzene naming with chlorine and NO2 as substituents.

    Figure 9. More complicated simple benzene naming examples - Note that standard nomenclature priority rules are applied here, causing the numbering of carbons to switch. See Nomenclature of Organic Compounds for a review on naming and priority rules.

    Ortho-, Meta-, Para- (OMP) Nomenclature for Disubstituted BenzenesEdit section

    Instead of using numbers to indicate substituents on a benzene ring, ortho- (o-), meta- (m-), or para (p-) can be used in place of positional markers when there are two substituents on the benzene ring (disubstituted benzenes). They are defined as the following:

    • ortho- (o-): 1,2- (next to each other in a benzene ring)
    • meta- (m): 1,3- (separated by one carbon in a benzene ring)
    • para- (p): 1,4- (across from each other in a benzene ring)

    Using the same example above in figure 9a (1,3-dichlorobenzene), we can use the ortho-, meta-, para- nomenclature to transform the chemical name into m-dichlorobenzene, as shown in the figure below.

    Figure 10. Transformation of 1,3-dichlorobenzene into m-dichlorobenzene.

    Here are some other examples of ortho-, meta-, para- nomenclature used in context:


    However, the substituents used in ortho-, meta-, para- nomenclature do not have to be the same. For example, we can use chlorine and a nitro group as substituents in the benzene ring.


    In conclusion, these can be pieced together into a summary diagram, as shown below:
    OMP (2).png

    Base Name NomenclatureEdit section

    In addition to simple benzene naming and OMP nomenclature, benzene derived compounds are also sometimes used as bases. The concept of a base is similar to the nomenclature of aliphatic and cyclic compounds, where the parent for the organic compound is used as a base (a name for its chemical name. For example, the following compounds have the base names hexane and cyclohexane, respectively. See Nomenclature of Organic Compounds for a review on naming organic compounds.


    Benzene, similar to these compounds shown above, also has base names from its derived compounds. Phenol (C6H5OH), as introduced previously in this article, for example, serves as a base when other substituents are attached to it. This is best illustrated in the diagram below.

    Figure 14. An example showing phenol as a base in its chemical name. Note how benzene no longer serves as a base when an OH group is added to the benzene ring.

    Alternatively, we can use the numbering system to indicate this compound. When the numbering system is used, the carbon where the substituent is attached on the base will be given the first priority and named as carbon #1 (C1). The normal priority rules then apply in the nomenclature process (give the rest of the substituents the lowest numbering as you could).

    Figure 15. The naming process for 2-chlorophenol (o-chlorophenol). Note that 2-chlorophenol = o-chlorophenol.

    Below is a list of commonly seen benzene-derived compounds. Some of these mono-substituted compounds (labeled in red and green), such as phenol or toluene, can be used in place of benzene for the chemical's base name.

    Figure 16. Common benzene derived compounds with various substituents.


    Common vs. Systematic (IUPAC) NomenclatureEdit section

    According to the indexing preferences of the Chemical Abstracts, phenol, benzaldehyde, and benzoic acid (labeled in red in Figure 16) are some of the common names that are retained in the IUPAC (systematic) nomenclature. Other names such as toluene, styrene, naphthalene, or phenanthrene can also be seen in the IUPAC system in the same way. While the use of other common names are usually acceptable in IUPAC, their use are discouraged in the nomenclature of compounds.

    Nomenclature for compounds which has such discouraged names will be named by the simple benzene naming system. An example of this would include toluene derivatives like TNT. (Note that toluene by itself is retained by the IUPAC nomenclature, but its derivatives, which contains additional substituents on the benzene ring, might be excluded from the convention). For this reason, the common chemical name 2,4,6-trinitrotoluene, or TNT, as shown in figure 17, would not be advisable under the IUPAC (systematic) nomenclature.

    To correctly name TNT under the IUPAC system, the simple benzene naming system should be used:

    Figure 18. Systematic (IUPAC) name of 2,4,6-trinitrotoluene (common name), or TNT.
    Note that the methyl group is individually named due to the exclusion of toluene from the IUPAC nomenclature.

    Figure 19. The common name 2,4-dibromophenol, is shared by the IUPAC systematic nomenclature.
    Only substituents phenol, benzoic acid, and benzaldehyde share this commonality.

    Since the IUPAC nomenclature primarily rely on the simple benzene naming system for the nomenclature of different benzene derived compounds, the OMP (ortho-, meta-, para-) system is not accepted in the IUPAC nomenclature. For this reason, the OMP system will yield common names that can be converted to systematic names by using the same method as above. For example, o-Xylene from the OMP system can be named 1,2-dimethylbenzene by using simple benzene naming (IUPAC standard).

    The Phenyl and Benzyl GroupsEdit section

    The Phenyl GroupEdit section

    As mentioned previously, the phenyl group (Ph-R, C6H5-R) can be formed by removing a hydrogen from benzene and attaching a substituent to where the hydrogen was removed. To this phenomenon, we can name compounds formed this way by applying this rule: (phenyl + substituent). For example, a chlorine attached in this manner would be named phenyl chloride, and a bromine attached in this manner would be named phenyl bromide. (See below diagram)

    Figure 20. Naming of Phenyl Chloride and Phenyl Bromide

    While compounds like these are usually named by simple benzene type naming (chlorobenzene and bromobenzene), the phenyl group naming is usually applied to benzene rings where a substituent with six or more carbons is attached, such as in the diagram below.

    Figure 21. Diagram of 2-phenyloctane.

    Although the diagram above might be a little daunting to understand at first, it is not as difficult as it seems after careful analysis of the structure is made. By looking for the longest chain in the compound, it should be clear that the longest chain is eight (8) carbons long (octane, as shown in green) and that a benzene ring is attached to the second position of this longest chain (labeled in red). As this rule suggests that the benzene ring will act as a function group (a substituent) whenever a substituent of more than six (6) carbons is attached to it, the name "benzene" is changed to phenyl and is used the same way as any other substituents, such as methyl, ethyl, or bromo. Putting it all together, the name can be derived as: 2-phenyloctane (phenyl is attached at the second position of the longest carbon chain, octane).

    The Benzyl GroupEdit section

    The benzyl group (abbv. Bn), similar to the phenyl group, is formed by manipulating the benzene ring. In the case of the benzyl group, it is formed by taking the phenyl group and adding a CH2 group to where the hydrogen was removed. Its molecular fragment can be written as C6H5CH2-R, PhCH2-R, or Bn-R. Nomenclature of benzyl group based compounds are very similar to the phenyl group compounds. For example, a chlorine attached to a benzyl group would simply be called benzyl chloride, whereas an OH group attached to a benzyl group would simply be called benzyl alcohol.

    Figure 22. Benzyl Group Nomenclature

    Additionally, other substituents can attach on the benzene ring in the presence of the benzyl group. An example of this can be seen in the figure below:

    Figure 23. Nomenclature of 2,4-difluorobenzyl chloride. Similar to the base name nomenclatures system, the carbon in which th base substitutent is attached on the benzene ring is given the first priority and the rest of the substituents are given the lowest number order possible.

    Similar to the base name nomenclature system, the carbon in which the base substituent is attached on the benzene ring is given the first priority and the rest of the substituents are given the lowest number order possible. Under this consideration, the above compound can be named: 2,4-difluorobenzyl chloride.

    Commonly Named Benzene Compounds Nomenclature Summary FlowchartEdit section

    Summary Flowchart (Figure 24). Summary of nomenclature rules used in commonly benzene derived compounds.
    As benzene derived compounds can be extremely complex, only compounds covered in this article and other commonly named compounds can be named using this flowchart.

    Determination of Common and Systematic Names using FlowchartEdit section

    To demonstrate how this flowchart can be used to name TNT in its common and systematic (IUPAC) name, a replica of the flowchart with the appropriate flow paths are shown below:


    ReferencesEdit section

    1. Nicolaou, K. C., & Montagnon, T. (2008). Molecules That Changed the World. KGaA, Weinheim: Wiley-VCH. p. 54
    2. Pitman, V. (2004). Aromatherapy. Great Britain, UK: Nelson Thornes. p.135-136
    3. Burton, G. (2000). Chemical Ideas. Bicester, Oxon: Heinemann. p.290-292
    4. Vollhardt, K. P.C. & Shore, N. (2007). Organic Chemistry (5th Ed.). New York: W. H. Freeman. p. 667-669
    5. Schnaubelt, K. (1999). Medical Aromatherapy. Berkeley, CA: Frog Books. p. 211-213
    6. Patrick, G. L. (2004). Organic Chemistry. New York, NY: Taylor & Francis. p. 135-136
    7. Talbott, S. M. (2002). A Guide to Understanding Dietary Supplements. Binghamton, NY: Haworth Press. p. 616-619
    8. Lifton, R. J. (2000). The Nazi doctors. New York, NY: Basic Books. p. 255-261
    9. Myers, R. L., & Myers, R. L. (2007). The 100 most important chemical compounds. Westport, CT: Greenwood Publishing Group. p. 281-282


    Edit section

    Exercise \(\PageIndex{1}\)


    (True/False) The compound above contains a benzene ring and thus is aromatic.


     False, this compound does not contain a benzene ring in its structure.

    Exercise \(\PageIndex{2}\)

    Benzene unusual stability is caused by how many conjugated pi bonds in its cyclic ring? ____



    Exercise \(\PageIndex{3}\)

    Menthol, a topical analgesic used in many ointments for the relief of pain, releases a peppermint aroma upon exposure to the air. Based on this conclusion, can you imply that a benzene ring is present in its chemical structure? Why or why not?


    No, a substance that is fragrant does not imply a benzene ring is in its structure. See camphor example (figure 1)

    Exercise \(\PageIndex{4}\)



    No reaction, benzene requires a special catalyst to be hydrogenated due to its unusual stability given by its three conjugated pi bonds.

    Exercise \(\PageIndex{5}\)

    At normal conditions, benzene has ___ resonance structures.



    Exercise \(\PageIndex{6}\)

    Which of the following name(s) is/are correct for the following compound?


    a) nitrohydride benzene
    b) phenylamine
    c) phenylamide
    d) aniline
    e) nitrogenhydrogen benzene
    f) All of the above is correct

    b, d

    Exercise \(\PageIndex{7}\)

    Convert 1,4-dimethylbenzene into its common name.



    Exercise \(\PageIndex{8}\)

    TNT's common name is: ______________________________



    Exercise \(\PageIndex{9}\)

    Name the following compound using OMP nomenclature:




    Exercise \(\PageIndex{10}\)

    Draw the structure of 2,4-dinitrotoluene.



    Exercise \(\PageIndex{11}\)

    Name the following compound:




    Example \(\PageIndex{12}\)

    Which of the following is the correct name for the following compound?


    a) 3,4-difluorobenzyl bromide
    b) 1,2-difluorobenzyl bromide
    c) 4,5-difluorobenzyl bromide
    d) 1,2-difluoroethyl bromide
    e) 5,6-difluoroethyl bromide
    f) 4,5-difluoroethyl bromide



    Exercise \(\PageIndex{13}\)

    (True/False) Benzyl chloride can be abbreviated Bz-Cl.


    False, the correct abbreviation for the benzyl group is Bn, not Bz. The correct abbreviation for Benzyl chloride is Bn-Cl.

    Exercise \(\PageIndex{14}\)

    Benzoic Acid has what R group attached to its phenyl functional group?



    Exercise \(\PageIndex{15}\)

    (True/False) A single aromatic compound can have multiple names indicating its structure.


    True. TNT, for example, has the common name 2,4,6-trinitrotoluene and its systematic name is 2-methyl-1,3,5-trinitrobenzene.

    Exercise \(\PageIndex{16}\)

    List the corresponding positions for the OMP system (o-, m-, p-).


    Ortho - 1,2 ; Meta - 1,3 ; Para - 1,4

    Exercise \(\PageIndex{17}\)

    A scientist has conducted an experiment on an unknown compound. He was able to determine that the unknown compound contains a cyclic ring in its structure as well as an alcohol (-OH) group attached to the ring. What is the unknown compound?
    a) Cyclohexanol
    b) Cyclicheptanol
    c) Phenol
    d) Methanol
    e) Bleach
    f) Cannot determine from the above information


    The correct answer is f). We cannot determine what structure this is since the question does not tell us what kind of cyclic ring the -OH group is attached on. Just as cyclohexane can be cyclic, benzene and cycloheptane can also be cyclic.

    Exercise \(\PageIndex{18}\)

    Which of the following statements is false for the compound, phenol?
    a) Phenol is a benzene derived compound.
    b) Phenol can be made by attaching an -OH group to a phenyl group.
    c) Phenol is highly toxic to the body even in small doses.
    d) Phenol can be used as a catalyst in the hydrogenation of benzene into cyclohexane.
    e) Phenol is used as an antiseptic in minute doses.
    f) Phenol is amongst one of the three common names retained in the IUPAC nomenclature.



    Exercise \(\PageIndex{19}\)

    State wither the following is para, meta, or ortho substituted.



    A – meta; B – para; C – ortho

    Exercise \(\PageIndex{20}\)

    Name the following compounds.



    a. 1,3-Dibromobenzene

    b. 1-phenyl-4-methylhexane

    c. 1,4-Dichloro-2,5-dimethylbenzene

    d. 2-methyl-1,3,5-trinitrobenzene. (Also known as trinitrotoluene, or TNT)

    Exercise \(\PageIndex{21}\)

    Draw the following structures

    1. p-chloroiodobenzene
    2. m-bromotoluene
    3. p-chloroaniline
    4. 1,3,5-trimethylbenzene


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