Skip to main content
Chemistry LibreTexts

3.6: Common Names of Alkanes

  • Page ID
  • Certain branched alkanes have common names that are still widely used today. These common names make use of prefixes, such as iso-, sec-, tert-, and neo-. The prefix iso-, which stands for isomer, is commonly given to 2-methyl alkanes. In other words, if there is methyl group located on the second carbon of a carbon chain, we can use the prefix iso-. The prefix will be placed in front of the alkane name that indicates the total number of carbons. Examples:

    • isopentane which is the same as 2-methylbutane
    • isobutane which is the same as 2-methylpropane

    To assign the prefixes sec-, which stands for secondary, and tert-, for tertiary, it is important that we first learn how to classify carbon molecules. If a carbon is attached to only one other carbon, it is called a primary carbon. If a carbon is attached to two other carbons, it is called a seconday carbon. A tertiary carbon is attached to three other carbons and last, a quaternary carbon is attached to four other carbons. Examples:

    • 4-sec-butylheptane (30g)
    • 4-tert-butyl-5-isopropylhexane (30d); if using this example, may want to move sec/tert after iso disc

    The prefix neo- refers to a substituent whose second-to-last carbon of the chain is trisubstituted (has three methyl groups attached to it). A neo-pentyl has five carbons total. Examples:

    • neopentane
    • neoheptane

    • Was this article helpful?