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6.3: Ionic Nomenclature

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    Learning Objectives
    • To use the rules for naming ionic compounds

    After learning a few more details about the names of individual ions, you will be a step away from knowing how to name ionic compounds. This section begins the formal study of nomenclature, the systematic naming of chemical compounds.

    Naming Ions

    The name of a monatomic cation is simply the name of the element followed by the word ion. Thus, Na+ is the sodium ion, Al3+ is the aluminum ion, Ca2+ is the calcium ion, and so forth.

    We have seen that some elements lose different numbers of electrons, producing ions of different charges. Iron, for example, can form two cations, each of which, when combined with the same anion, makes a different compound with unique physical and chemical properties. Thus, we need a different name for each iron ion to distinguish Fe2+ from Fe3+. The same issue arises for other ions with more than one possible charge.

    There are two ways to make this distinction. In the simpler, more modern approach, called the Stock system, an ion’s positive charge is indicated by a roman numeral in parentheses after the element name, followed by the word ion. Thus, Fe2+ is called the iron(II) ion, while Fe3+ is called the iron(III) ion. This system is used only for elements that form more than one common positive ion. We do not call the Na+ ion the sodium(I) ion because (I) is unnecessary. Sodium forms only a 1+ ion, so there is no ambiguity about the name sodium ion.

    Table \(\PageIndex{1}\): The Common System of Cation Names
    Element Stem Charge Name
    iron fe rr- 2+ ferrous ion
    3+ ferric ion
    copper cupr- 1+ cuprous ion
    2+ cupric ion
    tin stann- 2+ stannous ion
    4+ stannic ion
    lead plumb- 2+ plumbous ion
    4+ plumbic ion
    chromium chrom- 2+ chromous ion
    3+ chromic ion
    gold aur- 1+ aurous ion
    3+ auric ion

    The second system, called the common system, is not conventional but is still prevalent and used in the health sciences. This system recognizes that many metals have two common cations. The common system uses two suffixes (-ic and -ous) that are appended to the stem of the element name. The -ic suffix represents the greater of the two cation charges, and the -ous suffix represents the lower one. In many cases, the stem of the element name comes from the Latin name of the element. Table \(\PageIndex{1}\) lists the elements that use the common system, along with their respective cation names.

    The name of a monatomic anion consists of the stem of the element name, the suffix -ide, and then the word ion. Thus, as we have already seen, Cl is “chlor-” + “-ide ion,” or the chloride ion. Similarly, O2− is the oxide ion, Se2− is the selenide ion, and so forth. Table \(\PageIndex{2}\) lists the names of some common monatomic ions.

    Table \(\PageIndex{2}\): Some Monatomic Anions
    Ion Name
    F fluoride ion
    Cl chloride ion
    Br bromide ion
    I iodide ion
    O2− oxide ion
    S2− sulfide ion
    P3− phosphide ion
    N3− nitride ion

    The polyatomic ions have their own characteristic names, as discussed earlier.

    Example \(\PageIndex{1}\)

    Name each ion.

    1. Ca2+
    2. S2−
    3. SO32−
    4. NH4+
    5. Cu+
    Answer a

    the calcium ion

    Answer b

    the sulfide ion (from Table \(\PageIndex{2}\) )

    Answer c

    the sulfite ion

    Answer d

    the ammonium ion

    Answer e

    the copper(I) ion or the cuprous ion (copper can form cations with either a 1+ or 2+ charge, so we have to specify which charge this ion has

    Exercise \(\PageIndex{1}\)

    Name each ion.

    1. Fe2+
    2. Fe3+
    3. SO42−
    4. Ba2+
    5. HCO3
    Answer a

    the iron (II) or ferrous ion

    Answer b

    the iron (III) or ferric ion

    Answer c

    the sulfate ion

    Answer d

    the barium ion

    Answer e

    the bicarbonate ion or hydrogen carbonate ion

    Example \(\PageIndex{2}\)

    Write the formula for each ion.

    1. the bromide ion
    2. the phosphate ion
    3. the cupric ion
    4. the magnesium ion
    Answer a


    Answer b


    Answer c


    Answer d


    Exercise \(\PageIndex{2}\)

    Write the formula for each ion.

    1. the fluoride ion
    2. the carbonate ion
    3. the ferrous ion
    4. the potassium ion
    Answer a


    Answer b


    Answer c


    Answer d


    Naming Compounds

    Now that we know how to name ions, we are ready to name ionic compounds. We do so by placing the name of the cation first, followed by the name of the anion, and dropping the word ion from both parts. For example, what is the name of the compound whose formula is \(\ce{Ba(NO3)2}\)?


    The compound’s name does not indicate that there are two nitrate ions for every barium ion. You must determine the relative numbers of ions by balancing the positive and negative charges.

    If you are given a formula for an ionic compound whose cation can have more than one possible charge, you must first determine the charge on the cation before identifying its correct name. For example, consider \(\ce{FeCl2}\) and \(\ce{FeCl3}\). In the first compound, the iron ion has a 2+ charge because there are two \(\ce{Cl^{−}}\) ions in the formula (1− charge on each chloride ion). In the second compound, the iron ion has a 3+ charge, as indicated by the three \(\ce{Cl^{−}}\) ions in the formula. These are two different compounds that need two different names. By the Stock system, the names are iron(II) chloride and iron(III) chloride. If we were to use the stems and suffixes of the common system, the names would be ferrous chloride and ferric chloride, respectively.

    Example \(\PageIndex{3}\)

    Name each ionic compound, using both Stock and common systems if necessary.

    1. Ca3(PO4)2
    2. (NH4)2Cr2O7
    3. KCl
    4. CuCl
    5. SnF2
    Answer a

    calcium phosphate

    Answer b

    ammonium dichromate (the prefix di- is part of the name of the anion)

    Answer c

    potassium chloride

    Answer d

    copper(I) chloride or cuprous chloride

    Answer e

    tin(II) fluoride or stannous fluoride

    Exercise \(\PageIndex{3}\)

    Name each ionic compound, using both Stock and common systems if necessary.

    1. ZnBr2
    2. Fe(NO3)3
    3. Al2O3
    4. CuF2
    5. AgF
    Answer a

    zinc bromide

    Answer b

    iron (III) nitrate or ferric nitrate

    Answer c

    aluminum oxide

    Answer d

    copper (II) fluoride or cupric fluoride

    Answer e

    silver fluoride

    Figure \(\PageIndex{1}\) is a synopsis of how to name simple ionic compounds.

    Figure \(\PageIndex{1}\): A Guide to Naming Simple Ionic Compounds. Follow these steps to name a simple ionic compound.


    • Each ionic compound has its own unique name that comes from the names of the ions.


    1. Briefly describe the process for naming an ionic compound.

    2. In what order do the names of ions appear in the names of ionic compounds?

    3. Which ionic compounds can be named using two different systems? Give an example.

    4. Name each ion.

    1. Ra2+
    2. P3−
    3. H2PO4
    4. Sn4+

    5. Name each ion.

    1. Cs+
    2. As3−
    3. HSO4
    4. Sn2+

    6. Name the ionic compound formed by each pair of ions.

    1. Na+ and Br
    2. Mg2+ and Br
    3. Mg2+ and S2−

    7. Name the ionic compound formed by each pair of ions.

    1. K+ and Cl
    2. Mg2+ and Cl
    3. Mg2+ and Se2−

    8. Name the ionic compound formed by each pair of ions.

    1. Na+ and N3−
    2. Mg2+ and N3−
    3. Al3+ and S2−

    9. Name the ionic compound formed by each pair of ions.

    1. Li+ and N3−
    2. Mg2+ and P3−
    3. Li+ and P3−

    10. Name the ionic compound formed by each pair of ions. Use both the Stock and common systems, where appropriate.

    1. Fe3+ and Br
    2. Fe2+ and Br
    3. Au3+ and S2−
    4. Au+ and S2−

    11. Name the ionic compound formed by each pair of ions. Use both the Stock and common systems, where appropriate.

    1. Cr3+ and O2−
    2. Cr2+ and O2−
    3. Pb2+ and Cl
    4. Pb4+ and Cl

    12. Name the ionic compound formed by each pair of ions. Use both the Stock and common systems, where appropriate.

    1. Cr3+ and NO3
    2. Fe2+ and PO43−
    3. Ca2+ and CrO42−
    4. Al3+ and OH

    13. Name the ionic compound formed by each pair of ions. Use both the Stock and common systems, where appropriate.

    1. NH4+ and NO3
    2. K+ and Cr2O72−
    3. Cu+ and CO32−
    4. Na+ and HCO3

    14. Give two names for each compound.

    1. Al(HSO4)3
    2. Mg(HSO4)2

    15. Give two names for each compound.

    1. Co(HCO3)2
    2. LiHCO3


    1. Name the cation and then the anion but don’t use numerical prefixes.

    2. the cation name followed by the anion name

    3. Ionic compounds in which the cation can have more than one possible charge have two naming systems. FeCl3 is either iron(III) chloride or ferric chloride (answers will vary).


    1. the radium ion
    2. the phosphide ion
    3. the dihydrogen phosphate ion
    4. the tin(IV) ion or the stannic ion
    1. the cesium ion
    2. the arsenide ion
    3. the hydrogen sulfate ion
    4. the tin(II) ion or the stannous ion


    1. sodium bromide
    2. magnesium bromide
    3. magnesium sulfide


    1. potassium chloride
    2. magnesium chloride
    3. magnesium selenide


    1. sodium nitride
    2. magnesium nitride
    3. aluminum sulfide


    1. lithium nitride
    2. magnesium phosphide
    3. lithium phosphide


    1. iron(III) bromide or ferric bromide
    2. iron(II) bromide or ferrous bromide
    3. gold(III) sulfide or auric sulfide
    4. gold(I) sulfide or aurous sulfide


    1. chromium(III) oxide or chromic oxide
    2. chromium(II) oxide or chromous oxide
    3. lead(II) chloride or plumbous chloride
    4. lead(IV) chloride or plumbic chloride


    1. chromium(III) nitrate or chromic nitrate
    2. iron(II) phosphate or ferrous phosphate
    3. calcium chromate
    4. aluminum hydroxide
    1. ammonium nitrate
    2. potassium dichromate
    3. copper(I) carbonate or cuprous carbonate
    4. sodium hydrogen carbonate or sodium bicarbonate


    1. aluminum hydrogen sulfate or aluminum bisulfate
    2. magnesium hydrogen sulfate or magnesium bisulfate


    1. cobalt hydrogen carbonate or cobalt bicarbonate
    2. lithium hydrogen carbonate or lithium bicarbonate

    6.3: Ionic Nomenclature is shared under a CC BY-NC-SA license and was authored, remixed, and/or curated by LibreTexts.