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Naming Acids

What is an Acid?

An acid is any molecule dissolved in water that disassociates to become H+ and some other ion.  Remember that polyatomic ions like to stay stuck together so if a hydrogen is part of one, it will not break off.  Only compounds containing hydrogen by itself will become an acid in water.  Further, only when it is dissolved in water can an acid be called an acid.


Binary Acids

Binary acids are acids containing hydrogen and some other element, such as chlorine.  Remember, you can't have an acid without free hydrogen!  When we name binary acids, we add hydro before the root of the anion word and change ide to ic acid.


            HCl       -           Hydrochloric acid

            HI         -           Hydroiodic acid


Oxoacids (or Ox Acids) and Organic Acids

Oxoacids are acids that contain inorganic polyatomic ions bonded to a free hydrogen.  Acids with organic polyatomic ions (generally, if they contain carbon) are named quite similarly and are called Organic acids.  Here, we change any ate to ic acid in the name of the polyatomic ion.  We also change any ite to ous acid.  Use this trick:

I ate something icky

It mite be a hippopotamous


                        HNO3    -           This is H+ and nitrate (NO3-)

-                Nitric Acid

HNO2    -           This is H+ and nitrite (NO2-)

-                Nitrous Acid


There is one exception to this rule.  When a polyatomic ion does not contain oxygen, it is named the same way as binary acids (with a hydro in front).  As an example, let's look at cyanide.  The cyanide ion has a formula of CN-1.  Note that this ion does not contain oxygen, and it is therefore called hydrocyanic acid.

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