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5.01 Naming Binary Ionic Compounds

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  • Naming Ionic Compounds

    Naming ionic compounds is simple: combine the name of the cation and the name of the anion, in both cases omitting the word ion. Do not use numerical prefixes if there is more than one ion necessary to balance the charges. NaCl is sodium chloride, a combination of the name of the cation (sodium) and the anion (chloride). MgO is magnesium oxide. MgCl2 is magnesium chloride—not magnesium dichloride.

    In naming ionic compounds whose cations can have more than one possible charge, we must also include the charge, in parentheses and in roman numerals, as part of the name. Hence FeS is iron(II) sulfide, while Fe2S3 is iron(III) sulfide. Again, no numerical prefixes appear in the name. The number of ions in the formula is dictated by the need to balance the positive and negative charges.

    Example \(\PageIndex{3}\):

    Name each ionic compound.

    1. CaCl2
    2. AlF3
    3. Co2O3


    1. Using the names of the ions, this ionic compound is named calcium chloride. It is not calcium(II) chloride because calcium forms only one cation when it forms an ion, and it has a characteristic charge of 2+.
    2. The name of this ionic compound is aluminum fluoride.
    3. We know that cobalt can have more than one possible charge; we just need to determine what it is. Oxide always has a 2− charge, so with three oxide ions, we have a total negative charge of 6−. This means that the two cobalt ions have to contribute 6+, which for two cobalt ions means that each one is 3+. Therefore, the proper name for this ionic compound is cobalt(III) oxide.

    Exercise \(\PageIndex{3}\)

    Name each ionic compound.

    1. Sc2O3
    2. AgCl


    1. scandium oxide
    2. silver chloride

    How do you know whether a formula—and by extension, a name—is for a molecular compound or for an ionic compound? Molecular compounds form between nonmetals and nonmetals, while ionic compounds form between metals and nonmetals. The periodic table can be used to determine which elements are metals and nonmetals.


    Key Takeaways

    • Ionic compounds have a simple system of naming.
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