A silly Molecule

Molecules with Silly
or Unusual Names


Believe it or not, some chemists do have a sense of humour, and this page is a testament to that. Here we'll show you some real molecules that have unusual, ridiculous or downright silly names. If you know of any other potential candidates for this page, please let me know. People from all over the world have sent me so many contributions to this page, that I've now had to split it into three smaller pages.

The 3D structure files of many of these molecules can be obtained by clicking on the images. Information on what you need to view these structure files can be found here.


Yes, believe it or not, there is actually a molecule called Arsole... and it's a ring! It is the arsenic equivalent of pyrrole, and although it is rarely found in its pure form, it is occasionally seen as a sidegroup in the form of organic arsolyls. For more information, see the paper with probably the best title of any scientific paper I've ever come across: "Studies on the Chemistry of the Arsoles", G. Markl and H. Hauptmann, J. Organomet. Chem., 248 (1983) 269. New research (see reference below) shows that arsoles are only moderately aromatic...
Furthermore, the structure where arsole is fused to a benzene ring is called 'benzarsole', and apparently when it's fused to 6 benzenes is called 'sexibenzarsole', although that molecule hasn't been synthesised yet. Another well known poisonous arsenic molecule is the simple hydride, called 'arsine', with formula AsH3.
And on a related theme, I've been told of an Aryl Selenide compound with the superb shorthand of ArSe, which is both toxic and smelly. The paper it comes from in J. Am. Chem. Soc. was published by authors from, of course, the University of Aarhus!
Also, the related molecule phosphole (which just replaces As with P) is quite amusing if you are a French speaker, since it's pronounced the same as 'fausse folle' (literally false woman), which means both a 'crazy woman' and a 'drag-queen' or 'ladyboy'.

Thanks to Neil Brookes, Nicholas Welham, Andy Shipway and Lloyd Evans for some of the info about these molecules. This article inspired Mikael Johansson from Helsinki University to do a scientific study into the aromaticity of arsoles, which has been published: Letts. Org. Chem. 2 (2005) 469. Another intriguing reference supplied by Patrick Wallace is: G. Märkl and H. Hauptmann, "Unusual Substitution in an Arsole Ring", Angew. Chem. 84, (1972) 439. Thanks also to Thomas Jeanmaire for the info and translation about phosphole.

click for 3D structure
click for 3D structure

Adam Ant


This molecule always brings a smile to the lips of undergrads when they first hear its name, especially in the UK. For those not in the know, Adam Ant was an English pop star in the early 1980's famous for silly songs and strange make-up.


This is actually a close relative of adamantane, and its proper name is ethano-bridged noradamantane. However because it had the unusual ethano bridge, and was therefore a variation from the standard types of structure found in the field of hydrocarbon cage rearrangements, it came to be known as bastardane - the "unwanted child".

[A. Nickon and E.F. Silversmith, 'Organic Chemistry: The Name Game', Pergamon, 1987].

Click for 3D structure
Click for 3D structure
Click for 3D structure

Buckminster Fullerene

This is the famous soccerball-shaped molecule that won its discoverers the Nobel prize for Chemistry in 1996. It is named after the architect Buckminster Fuller who designed the geodesic dome exhibited at Expo '67 in Montreal, from which Sir Harry Kroto got the idea how 60 Carbon atoms could be arranged in a perfectly symmetrical fashion. Because the name of the molecule is a bit of a mouthful, it is often referred to just as a Bucky Ball. It's also known as 'Footballene' by some researchers. In fact, there is now a whole 'fullerene zoo', with oddly coined names, including: Buckybabies (C32, C44, C50, C58), Rugby Ball (C70), Giant Fullerenes (C240, C540, C960), Russian Egg or Bucky Onions (balls within balls), Fuzzyball (C60H60), Bunnyball (C60(OsO4)(4-t-Butylpyridine)2), Platinum-Burr Ball ({[(C2H5)3P]2Pt}6C60) and Hetero-fullerenes (in which some Cs are replaced by other atoms).
There is also a fullerene paper in which the authors describe a method for severing two adjacent bonds in C60, entitled "There Is a Hole in My Bucky" [J. Am. Chem. Soc., 117 (1995) 7003].

Thanks to A. Haymet for the info regarding footballene, and to Charles Turner for the names of the other fullerenes which came from: 'Fullerenes', by Robert F. Curl and Richard E. Smalley, Scientific American October 1991, and to Tom Hawkins for the JACS reference.


Despite having a ridiculous name, the molecule is quite ordinary. It gets its name from being both a constituent of Aniba Megaphylla roots and a ketone.

[S.M. Kupchan et al, 'J.Org.Chem.', 43 (1987) 586].

Megaphone - click for 3D structure

A munchkin - does he eat munchnones?


No, these aren't the favourite compound of the Munchkins from The Wizard of Oz, but are in fact a type of mesoionic compound. These are ring structures in which the positive and negative charge are delocalised, and which cannot be represented satisfactorily by any one polar structure. They got their name when Huisgen called them after the city Munich (München), after similar compounds were called sydnones after Sydney.

Huisgen et al. Chem. Ber. 1970, 103, 2611. Thanks to Matthew J. Dowd, Virginia Commonwealth University, Richmond, VA, for supplying this one.


I know this is technically an element, not a molecule, but it had such a ridiculous name I thought I'd include it. This is actually element number 111, and was called by the IUPAC temporary systematic name of unununium before it was recently renamed roentgenium. This is a pity, because if it formed ring or cage structures, previously we might have ended up with unununium onions...

[See Pure and Appl. Chem. 51 (1979) 381 for the naming scheme]. Thanks to Chris Fellows for info about its new name.


A sample of pyroxmangite, with white pieces of cummingtonite visible toward the lower left.


This mineral must have the silliest name of them all! Its official name is magnesium iron silicate hydroxide, and it has the formula (Mg,Fe)7Si8O22(OH)2. It got its name from the locality where it was first found, Cummington, Massachusetts, USA.

Putrescine, Cadaverine, Spermine and Spermidine

Putrescine originates in putrefying and rotting flesh, and is quite literally, the smell of death. It is one of the breakdown products of some of the amino-acids found in animals, including humans. Although the molecule is a poisonous solid, as flesh decays the vapour pressure of the putrescine it contains becomes sufficiently large to allow its disgusting odour to be detected. It is usually accompanied by cadaverine (named after the cadavers that give rise to it), a poisonous syrupy liquid with an equally disgusting smell. Putrescine and cadaverine also contribute towards the smells of some living processes. Since they are both poisonous, the body normally excretes them in whatever way is quickest and most convenient. For example, the odour of bad breath and urine are 'enriched' by the presence of these molecules, as is the smell of semen, which also contains the related molecules spermine and spermidine.

Thanks to Bill Longman for suggesting the last two.

Putrescine & cadaverine

Silly names, and smelly too...
(3D structure files:
putrescine, cadaverine, spermine, spermidine)

Dickite - click for 3D structure

2 layers of dickite.


Dickite, Al2Si2O5(OH)4, is a (kaolin) clay-like mineral which exhibits mica-like layers with silicate sheets of 6-membered rings bonded to aluminium oxide/hydroxide layers. Dickite is used in ceramics, as paint filler, rubber, plastics and glossy paper. It got its name from the geologist that discovered it around the 1890s, Dr. W. Thomas Dick, of Lanarkshire, Scotland.

Structure from the Virtual Museum of Minerals and Molecules

Moronic Acid

This is a triterpenoid organic acid that is found in Pistacia resin, and is therefore of interest to people studying archaeological relics, shipwrecks and the contents of ancient Egyptian jars. But why it's called moronic acid is still unknown... Derivatives of this are called moronates, as in 'which moron-ate the contents of this jar?'

Ref: P.L. Majumdar, R.N. Maity, S.K. Panda, D. Mal, M.S. Raju and E. Wenkert, J.Org.Chem. (1979) 44, 2811.
Thanks to Dr Ben Stern of Bradford University for supplying this one.

Moronic Acid - click for 3D structure

Moronic acid

Curious chloride

Curious Chloride and Titanic Chloride

The trivial name for some curium compounds can be either curous or 'curious', so curium trichloride becomes curious chloride. However the only curious property it has is that it's sufficiently radioactive that a solution, if concentrated enough, will boil spontaneously after a while. When the name Curium was proposed for the element in honour of the pioneering chemists, it was pointed out at the time that since Curium had more than one valency we would end up with 'Curious Curates'. But I'm sure these are already a well-known phenomenon... (And I wonder if a molecule with 2 Cm atoms in would be 'bi-curious'...?)
In a similar way, titanium compounds can be 'titanic', so we get the wonderfully named titanic chloride, TiCl4. It's also interesting to know that in the titanium industry, TiCl4 is known as 'tickle'. Furthermore, curium oxides are called 'curates', so the titanium compound would be Titanic Curate...
In a similar way, some nickel compounds can be referred to as 'nickelous' - so we get compounds like Nickelous Sulfate (a nice guy by all accounts...)

Thanks to Beveridge and Dr Justin E. Rigden for supplying these two and to John Burgess and Neil Tristram for the ideas on curates, and to Michael Geyer for the Nickelous content.


This wonderfully named mineral gets its name from the Fuka mine in the Fuka region of southern Japan. It is very rare, and is a form of calcium silico-carbonate, with formula Ca4Si2O6(CO3)(OH,F) 2.

More details from: Henmi, C., Kusachi, I., Kawahara, A., and Henmi, K., Mineral. J., 8, (1977) 374. Thanks to Matthew Latto for info on this mineral.

Fukalite - the red marker is 3mm long

Traumatic Acid

This is a plant hormone which causes injured cells to divide and help repair the trauma - hence its name, and its synonym 'wound hormone'.

Thanks to Dr Neil Edwards of Sussex University for supplying this one, and to Han Wermaat in the Dutch Chemistry magazine 'Chemisch2weekblad' for its information.

Traumatic acid - click for 3D structure
Arabitol - click for 3D structure


No, this has nothing to do with rabbits - it's an organic alcohol that's one constituent of wine. It's also known as pentahydric alcohol.

Thanks to David Brady for supplying this one.

Does Bugs eat arabitol?
Fucitol - click for 3D structure
Fucitol again


Although this sounds like what an undergraduate chemist might exclaim when their synthesis goes wrong, it's actually an alcohol, whose other names are L-fuc-ol or 1-deoxy-D-galactitol. It gets its wonderful trivial name from the fact that it is derived from the sugar fucose, which comes from a seaweed found in the North Atlantic called Bladderwrack whose latin name is Fucus vesiculosis. Interestingly, there are a few articles in the Journal of Biochemistry throughout 1997 concerning a kinase enzyme which acts on fucose. The creators of these articles were Japanese, and seemed to have missed the fact that fucose kinase should not be abbreviated as 'fuc-K'. Similarly, the E. coli K-12 Gene has other proteins that have been named Fuc-U and Fuc-R.

Thanks to Bob Brady for suggesting this one, and to Dr Stephen O'Hanlon from the Orthopaedics Dept of Bedford Hospital for the information on fucose kinase, and to Professor Anthony Davis of Bristol University for suggesting FucU and FucR.

Erotic Acid

No, this isn't the world's best aphrodisiac. Its correct name is orotic acid, but it has been misspelt so often in the chemical literature that it is also known as erotic acid! Another name for it is vitamin B13. Apparently, if you add another carbon to it, it becomes homo-erotic acid...

Thanks to Gerard J. Kleywegt of Uppsala University for info on this molecule.

Click for 3D structure


Although it sounds like the trade name of a laxative, this is a type of mica found in Japan and Sweden, and has the formula (Ba,K)(Mg,Mn)3Si2Al2O10(OH) 2. It is green and vitreous, and is about as hard as fingernails, apparently. Its name comes from the Japanese for "under the tree" (ki = tree; no = possessive particle; shita = under).

Thanks to Van King for info on this mineral and Melita Rowley for the Japanese translation.

Bastardin-5 - click for 3D structure file


This is just one of a number of bastadins, which are molecules isolated from the marine sponge Ianthella basta. They possess antibacterial, cytotoxic and anti-inflammatory properties.

Thanks to Neil Edwards for info on this molecule.

Bastardin-5 - click for 3D structure file


This poisonous molecule gets its name from the nut Nux Vomica, which is the seed of a tree found on the coasts of the East Indies. The seeds are sometimes called 'Quaker buttons', and are a source of strychnine as well as the emetic vomicine.

Thanks to Bill Longman and Alan Howard Martin for info on this molecule.

Vomicine - click for 3D structure
Rhamnose - click for 3D structure


This sounds like the molecule that's created when you walk into fact it's a type of sugar.

Thanks to Bill Longman for info on this molecule.

Rhamnose - click for 3D structure
Has Posh Spice just been given some rhamnose?


This ridiculously named molecule is found in cotton seeds. It was used as a male contraceptive in China, but was never used in the West (and may have since been banned in China as well), since its effects were permanent in about 20% of patients!

Thanks to Lionel Hill for suggesting this molecule, and to Anthony Argyriou for providing some of the info.

Gossypol - click for 3D structure
Skatole - click for 3D structure


This molecule's name comes from 'skatalogical', meaning concerning fecal material. Its proper name is 3-methylindole, but it gets its trivial name from the fact that it is a component of feces. Surprisingly, it is also found in coal tar and beetroot (!), and can be obtained synthetically by mixing egg albumin and KOH. As you might guess, skatole consists of white to brownish scales which are soluble in hot water.

Thanks to Allen Knutson for suggesting this molecule, and to Samuel Knight for providing the info.

Where you might find skatole...


This is a naturally occurring mineral, whose correct name is cubic arsenic trioxide (As2O3). It is also the primary product whenever arsenic ores are smelted, and is used in industry as a glass decolourising agent. Another related mineral with a similar silly name is arsenolamprite, which is a native form of arsenic.

Thanks to Matthew Latto and Nicholas Welham for suggesting these minerals.


This is a 'sexi' molecule - which means it has 6 sub-units, in this case of thiophene rings. Because of its conjugated system of double bonds, this organic molecule conducts electricity quite well. As a result, it is one of a number of similar molecules being studied for possible uses in organic polymer electronics. Incidentally, the Latin for 5 sub-units is quinque (pronounced 'kinky'), so by adding one subunit a quinque molecule becomes sexi...

A sexi molecule - click for 3D structure
Click for 3D structure


Although it sounds like it, this isn't the active ingredient in a pina colada cocktail. Rather it is a versatile reagent for the preparation of boronic esters from halides, the diboration of olefins, and solid-phase Suzuki coupling. See, for example J.Org. Chem. 60 (1995) 7508. A proper Pina Colada cocktail is a concoction of pineapple juice, coconut milk and rum, often served with crushed ice and a little paper umbrella stuck in the glass.

Thanks to Victoria Barclay of Advanced Chemistry Development, Inc., Toronto, for providing the info on this molecule.

A proper Pina Colada
Lucifer Sauce (taken from

Lucifer yellow

I think Lucifer Yellow is a food colouring used especially in hot sauces, like salsa pickle. It is also used in plant microscopy anatomy studies, because it fluoresces under ultraviolet light and stains certain regions between plant cells.

For more info, see here. Thanks to Gavin Shear of Advanced Chemistry Development, Inc., Toronto, and to Seranne Howis, of Rhodes University, South Africa, for providing the info on this molecule.

A devil of a molecule!


Crapinon (also known as Sanzen) is another molecule with an excellent name, and is apparently used therapeutically as an anticholinergic. These are drugs which dry secretions, increase heart rate, and decrease lung constriction. More importantly, they also constipate quite strongly - so 'crappy-non' is most appropriate. It would be nice to think that this molecule could find an alternative use as a toilet cleaner (as in "Who's been crapinon the seat?").

Thanks to Gavin Shear of Advanced Chemistry Development, Inc., Toronto, and Tom Simpson of the Royal Hobart Hospital, Austalia for providing the info on this molecule.

Crapinon - Click for 3D Molfile
Sparassol - Click for 3D molfile


This molecule sounds like what you'd need the day after eating a very hot curry (spare-assol). Sparassol is an antibiotic produced by the fungus Sparassis ramosa.

Thanks to Eric Walters from The Chicago Medical School for providing the info on this molecule.

Periodic Acid

Ok, I know it should really be per-iodic acid, but without the hyphen it sounds like it only works some of the time...It has also been described as that acid extracted by boiling of old periodic tables found in chemistry lecture halls and laboratories.

Thanks to Allen Knutson for suggesting this molecule, and to Prof Walter Maya of California State Polytechnic University for some of the details.

Per-iodic Acid
Phthalic acid - click for 3D structure

Phthalic Acid

This molecule is often pronounced with a silent 'th' for comic effect. I wonder if phthalyl side-groups have a shorthand symbol in chemical structures, in the same way that phenyl groups are shortened to -Ph? If so, would it be a 'phthalic symbol'...?
Again, adding an extra carbon makes homo-phthalic acid - say no more...

Thanks to Neil Edwards of Sussex University for info about this molecule.

Homo-phthalic acid - click for 3D structure
Psicose - click for 3D structure


This molecule has nothing to do with axe-murderers, but is a sugar which gets its name because it's isolated from the antibiotic psicofurania. Its other name is ribo-hexulose.

Does psicose turn you into a psycho...?

Commic Acid

This molecule's always good for a laugh! It gets its 'commical' name since it's a constituent of the plant Commiphora pyracanthoides, one of the Myrrh trees. When reduced to the aldehyde, I presume the product would be named commical?

Thanks to Michael F Aldersleyfor info about this molecule.

Commic acid - click for 3D structure
Fruticolone - click for 3D structure


This sounds like what you get after a baked bean meal...but it actually gets its name from being both a constituent of the plant Teucrium fruiticans and a ketone.


Although maybe not quite as silly as some of the other molecular names, I like this one for its n-n-nice alliteration. Many nonanones act as alarm pheremones in wasps, ants and bees. Interestingly, in Danish, Norwegian, Swedish and German molecular names are spelt without the end "e" (e.g. hexane is hexan, etc.). Therefore nonanone becomes 'nonanon', and is quite an exceptional molecule name, being spelled the same way forwards and backwards - a palindromic molecule! The molecule shown is 2-nonanone, but 5-nonanone with the C=O group in the middle would be the same forward as well as backwards, thus being palindromic in spelling and in structure!

Thanks to Carl Kemnitz for supplying some info about this molecule.

Nonanone - click for 3d structure
Fukugetin - click for 3D structure


This chemical with a most amusing name is also called Morellofavone, and is a constituent of the bark of the Garcenia species of tree. Its glucoside goes by the equally wonderful name of Fukugiside.


Also known as Reserpinine. I don't know much about pubescine, but I bet it forms short, curly crystals...

Thanks to Michael J. Mealy of the University of Conneticut for providing the info on this molecule.

Pubescine - click for 3D structure
Spam, spam, spam, spam....


Monty Python's favourite molecule? Spamol might also conjure images of unwanted "Make Money Fast" emails circulating the globe at the speed of light ("spam - all"). Its other names are aminopromazine, lispamol or lorusil, and it's actually used as an anti-spasmodic therapeutic agent.

Thanks to Victoria Barclay of Advanced Chemistry Development, Inc., Toronto, for providing the info on this molecule.

Spam, spam, spam, spam, wonderful SPAAAAM.... bloody vikings...

Fukiic Acid

Fuki is the Japanese word for the butterbur flower, and Fukiic acid is the hydrolysis product from this plant, Petasites japonicus. Interestingly, further oxidation of this produces the wonderfully named Fukinolic acid...

Thanks to Anton Sherwood for info on this molecule.

Fukiic acid - click for 3D structure
Funicone - click for 3D structure


This gets its name, not from being funny and cone shaped, but because it's the metabolism product of the fungus Penicillium funiculosum.

Housane and Basketane

Obviously, these molecules get their name from their shapes. Although I do think that housane (how sane?) should be closely linked to psicose, above.

Thanks to A. Rich for suggesting these molecules.

Housane - click for 3D structureBasketane - click for 3D structure
Windowpane - click for 3D structure


Windowpane C9H12 gets its name from its resemblance to a set of windows, but unfortunately it has never been synthesised. But the version with a corner carbon missing C8H12 has been made, and goes by the name 'broken windowpane', or more accurately fenestrane. Interestingly, a hypothetical derivative of Windowpane has been suggested which includes a double bond, and this would of course be called Windowlene...

Thanks to Adrian Davis of Pfizer Global Research & Development for providing the info on these molecules, and to Iain Fenton for suggesting windowlene.

Broken Windowpane - click for 3D structure


Ok, so this is a bit of a cheat, since it's not an official molecular name...but it makes a nice story. When Albert Szent-Gyorgyi isolated ascorbic acid and published his findings, he called the new substance 'ignose' since he was convinced it was a sugar that resembled glucose and fructose, but was ignorant of its structure. When the journal editor refused to accept ignose as a sensible name, Szent-Gyorgyi suggested 'Godnose' instead! Alas the editor was neither imaginative nor humorous, and suggested that a more proper name had to be used. The structure of the carbohydrate was elucidated in collaboration with Haworth at Birmingham and the alternative name given was hexuronic acid (hex = six). During the same period (1928–1931), Charles Glen King of the Columbia University of USA isolated Vitamin C from lemon juice and it was observed that hexuronic acid and Vitamin C were identical. Szent-Györgyi documents the episode in the essay "Lost in the Twentieth Century," which is in Volume 32 of the Annual Review of Biochemistry, and dates from 1963.

Thanks to John P Oliver, Peter Macinnis and Charles Turner for providing the info and story. Incidentally, Godnose is also the name of an Australian punk band.

'Godnose' - actually ascorbic acid or Vitamin C


This molecule is an enzyme which reacts with ATP to cleave luciferin, its substrate. This cleavage reaction causes the firey glow in fireflies and certain types of fish, hence its name.

Thanks to Melissa Harrison for suggesting this molecule.

Diabolic Acid

Diabolic acids are actually a class of compounds where the m and n chains can have different lengths and can contain unsaturation. They were named after the Greek diabollo, meaning to mislead, since they were particularly difficult to isolate using standard gas chromatography techniques. One of the inventors, Prof Klein, also thought that they had 'horns like the devil'.

Luciferase - click for 3D PDB file (250 kb!)
A Diabolic acid
Domperidone (hic) - click for 3D structure


This molecule sounds like it should be the active ingredient in Dom Perignon champagne, but it's actually an anti-emetic drug.

Thanks to Eric Walters from The Chicago Medical School for suggesting this molecule.

The real thing?
GardininA - click for 3D structure

Gardinin flower

If you fancy a bit of gardenin', this is the molecule for you. In fact, these are many different gardenins, which are flavones extracted from Gardenia lucida, a plant from India. The structure left is for gardinin A, which forms yellow crystals.

Thanks to Eric Walters from The Chicago Medical School for suggesting this molecule.


This is a particularly relevant molecule that is pertinent and has a bearing on a number of inorganic reactions...

Thanks to Eric Walters from The Chicago Medical School for suggesting this molecule.

Germane - click for the 3D structure


Uranation reaction?Uranate ion

The various uranium oxide anions (UO22-, UO32-, UO42-, etc) go by the glorious name of 'uranates'. I wonder if unwanted reactions of these ions with certain compounds is called 'involuntary uranation'...? And is nickel uranate what you'd need to 'spend a penny'?
Related to this, uranium nitrate is also known as uranyl nitrate, which sounds like the entry fee for a gents toilet after 8pm...

Thanks to Victor Sussman from Carleton College in Northfield, MN, USA for suggesting this molecule, and to Amy Roediger for suggesting nickel uranate.


Kunzite (Spodumene)

This mineral is a pink (of course...) gemstone, named after the gemologist G.F. Kunz who described it in 1902. Kunzite is a fragile stone, which shows different shades of colour when viewed from different directions. Called an "evening" stone, it should not be exposed to direct sunlight which can fade its color in time. Its alternative name, Spodumene, sounds like an American shop that sells computer nerds ("Spod-U-Mean")


This chemical sounds like Conan the Barbarian has been smoking something he shouldn't... In fact it's a peptide neurotoxin found in the marine snail Conus geographus. Researchers have found that some conantokins cause young mice to fall asleep, and older mice to become hyperactive, but they don't say what happens to middle-aged mice...It probably gets its name because it was isolated from Conus snails hence "con-". And, "antok" is a Filipino word which means "sleepy", which refers to its effect on young mice. Apparently, there is also a related molecule called "contulakin". "Tulak" is a Filipino term for "push". It seems that this molecule causes mice to be sluggish and thus, they had to be pushed.

Thanks to Dr. Andrew P. Rodenhiser from McGill University, Canada, for suggesting this molecule, and to Jesper Karlsson of the University of Kalmar, Sweden, and Rene Angelo Macahig of Ateneo de Manila University, Philipines, for more info about it.

It looks like Conan has been doing more than just tokin'...
Conantokin - click for 3D structure
Well, is it...?


This wonderfully named mineral is called after the US amateur mineralogist Wilfred R. Welsh. Its formula is Ca2SbMg4FeBe2Si4O20. Some people think it's quite a nice mineral, but others think it's 'well-shite'.

Thanks to Matthew Latto for suggesting this mineral.

Propellane - click for 3D structure

Propellane and Cubane

These two molecules are both named after their distinctive shapes. Propellane (left), C5H6, resembles a propeller, whereas cubane (right), C8H8, is a cube (but doesn't come from Cuba). Other molecules that get their name from their geometric shapes are: dodecahedrane C20H20, prismane C6H6, spherands and hemispherands, squaric acid C4H2O4 and deltic acid C3H2O3, tetrahedranes C4H4 and C20H36 and finally twistane C10H16.

Thanks to Kay Brower for suggesting propellane, and to Martin A. Iglesias Arteaga from the University of Havana, Cuba for suggesting cubane. Thanks also to Mark Minton for suggesting the other list of geometrical molecules.

Cubane - click for 3d structure


This gets its name from the root of the Clitoria macrophylla plant, and is a constituent of the Thai drug "Non-tai-yak" which is used to treat respiratory disorders, including pulmonary tuberculosis and bronchitis, and also works as an insecticide.

Clitoria - press the button to see its structure...
Vaginatin - click for 3D structure


I know you can get most things nowadays in a tin, but this is getting silly... Actually it gets its name from the plant Selinum Vaginatum. The related molecule is Vaginol, which also goes by the name Archangelicin.

Thanks to Matti.Lepisto and Stephen Yabut for the info on this molecule.

Vaginol - click for 3D structure
Anol - click for 3D structure


Anol is a synonym for 4-(1-propenyl)phenol, and it is apparently used in the flavour industry. Are compounds that bond strongly to this molecule called 'anolly retentive'?

Thanks to Phil Van Es for suggesting this molecule.


The European Union has standardised everything else (apple sizes, the shapes of bananas, etc...) and it now sounds like they're going even further (Euro-sperm-all). In reality, it gets its name from being a constituent of the roots of the Urospermum delachampii plant.

Urospermal - click for 3D structure
Buccalin - clunk, click, every trip?


This sounds like the molecule from which car seat-belts are made, but it's actually a neuropeptide which acts in nerves to stop acetylcholine release.

Thanks to Dr. Andrew P. Rodenhiser from McGill University, Canada, for suggesting this molecule.


Antipain is a protease inhibitor, which means it prevents proteins from being degraded. Despite its promising name, it is a very toxic compound, and it causes severe itch or pain (!) when contacted with the skin.

Thanks to Marcel Volker from Leiden University Medical Center, Netherlands, for suggesting this molecule.

Antipain - click for 3D structure
Dinile - click for 3D structure


Why did the two cyanide groups go to see a psychiatrist? Because they were both 'in dinile'... In fact, dinile is another name for butanedinitrile or succinonitrile, and is a waxy solid that if ingested forms cyanides in the body.

Thanks to Hazel Mottram and Phil van Ess for suggesting this molecule.


This is a mineral that is composed of a basic chromate-arsenate compound of Pb and Cu with the formula: (Pb,Cu2+)3[(Cr,As)O4]2(OH). If it could be polished into a gemstone, it sounds ideal for a ring that a cheating husband might buy his mistress.

Thanks to Alan Plante, a New Hampshire, USA, "Rockhound", for suggesting this mineral.

Fornacite - the dark lumpy bits on a white background

The dark lumpy bits on the white background are Fornacite

Butanal - Click for 3D structure


This molecule sounds better if it's hyphenated (but-anal), but it is actually quite a common aldehyde.

Thanks to Shawn McClements, Amsterdam NY, USA, and his high school class for suggesting this molecule. any acid....?

Angelic Acid

Angelic acid isn't very angelic at all - it's a defence substance for certain beetles. It gets its name from the Swedish plant Garden Angelica (Archangelica officinalis) from whose roots it was first obtained in the 1840s. Its proper name is (Z)-2-methyl-2-butenoic acid. The other isomer (E) goes by the equally silly name of tiglic acid (from the plant Croton tiglium, the source of croton oil) and is also a beetle defence substance.

Thanks to Andrew Walden for suggesting these molecules and to Florian Raab and Bo Ohlson for providing some of the information about them.

Angelic acid - click for 3D structure
Tiglic acid - click for 3D structure


This molecule sounds like the places reserved for smokers to light up. Actually, ciglitizone is is a member of a class of compounds that are used as anti-diabetics. The drug Avandia (Rosiglitazone), used to treat type II diabetes, is a member of this class of compounds. Another related molecule is troglitazone, which I've mentioned for all fans of the eponymous rock group or small cave dwelling dwarfs.

Thanks to Robin Brown of Galapagos Genomics, Belgium, and to Joerg Fruechtel for the info on this molecule. (More info, see: Br. J. Pharmacol. 131 (2000) 651).

Ciglitizone - click for 3D structure
Clitorin - rub here for 3D effect ;-)...


I don't know much about clitorin, except that it's a flavenol glycoside (make of that what you will), but I've heard it's touch sensitive ;-).

Thanks to Joerg Fruechtel and Nicholas J. Welham for the info on this molecule. (More info, see: Phytochemistry 55 (2000) 67).

Constipatic Acid

This is a constituent of some Australian lichens, but I don't know how it got its name. Derivatives of this are protoconstipatic acid, dehydroconstipatic acid, and methyl constipatate.

See D.O. Chester and J.A. Elix, Austr. J. Chem. 32 (1979) 2565. Thanks to Ronald Wysocki of the University of Arizona for suggesting this molecule.

Constipatic acid - click for 3D structure
L-Fucol - click for fucol to happen.


This sugar sounds like it doesn't do very much! Actually the L-Fucol form is obtained from the eggs of sea urchins, frog spawn and milk. The L-fucol form also goes by the name of rhodeose.

Thanks to Ronald Wysocki of the University of Arizona for suggesting this molecule.

D-Fucol - click for fucol to happen


This gets its name from the similarity of its 2D structure to a penguin. The effect is slightly lost in the 3D model, though. It's real name is: 3,4,4,5-tetramethylcyclohexa-2,5-dienone.

Thanks to Chris Scotton for suggesting this molecule.

P-p-p-pick up a penguinPenguinone - click for 3D structure
Ovalene - click for 3D structure


Ovalene is a polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon, C32H14. Funnily enough it's oval-shaped...

Thanks to Terry Frankcomb of the University of Queensland, Australia for suggesting this molecule.

Ovalene - click for 3d structure


This mineral gets its 'enigmatic' name from the fact that its chemical composition was originally difficult to determine. It is an iron and titanium silicate with sodium as a charge balancing cation, although because it does not easily fit into the current classification system, it is classified as an 'Unclassified Silicate'.

Thanks to Phillip Barak of the Virtual Museum of Minerals and Molecules for suggesting this mineral.

Aenigmatite - click for 3D structure
The units which make up dogcollarane
The first dogcollarane - click for 3D structure


Dogcollaranes are a group of molecules made from alternating bicyclo [2,2,0] and norbornyl segments. When there are 24 such components, the ends can be linked together to form a ring, which looks like a dogcollar. Unfortunately, although many of the intermediate structures have been made, none of the dogcollaranes have yet been synthesised.

For more info, see: Aust. J. Chem. 40 (1987) 1951.
Thanks to John Lambert of the University of Melbourne for suggesting this molecule.


Fuchsite is a mineral, and is the green form of Muscovite, KAl2(AlSi3O10)(F, OH)2. It is used as an ornamental stone, and apparently has perfect cleavage...

Thanks to Tanuki for suggesting this mineral.

Sepulchrate - click for 3D structure

Sepulchrate and Sarcophagene

These spooky sounding molecules both have structures which wrap around and enclose metal atoms, such as cobalt, in a coffin-like cage. Hence their names.

Thanks to Mark Minton for suggesting this molecule.

Sarcophagene - click for 3D structure
A pagoda in Kyoto


This C20H20 molecule gets its name because it resembles a Japanese pagoda - well, two pagodas, back-to-back.

Thanks to Mark Minton for suggesting this molecule.

Click for 3D structure


DEAD is actually the acronym for diethyl azodicarboxylate, which is an important reagent in the well-known Mitsunobu reaction which performs a stereospecific conversion of an alcohol to a primary amine. It's quite a good acronym, as DEAD is an orange liquid that's explosive, shock sensitive, light sensitive, toxic, a possible carcinogen or mutagen, and an eye, skin and respiratory irritant! A version of diethyl azodicarboxylate mixed with acid and triphenylphosphine has also been termed DEADCAT.

Thanks to 'Sparkly' Sally Ewen for suggesting this molecule.

Click here and you'll be DEAD
Apatite for destruction?  Wafer-thin mineral, anyone?


A mineral for hungry people? Apatite is a phosphate mineral with the composition Ca5[PO4]3(OH,F,Cl). It has been used extensively as a phosphorus fertilizer and is still mined for that purpose today. Ironically, apatite is the mineral that makes up the teeth in all vertebrate animals as well as their bones.

Thanks to 'Sparkly' Sally Ewen for suggesting this molecule and to Sean for some info about it.

Apatite - click for 3D structure
Lepidopterane - click for 3D structure

Lepidopterene or Biplanene

Lepidopterenes are a whole class of molecules named after their structural similarity to a butterfly. When the two wings are directly over one another, they look like a WW1 biplane, and so this group of molecules has been termed 'biplanenes'.

Thanks to Mark Minton for suggesting this molecule.

A snout


This strange looking molecule resembles the nose or snout of an animal, but I don't know if it smells...

Thanks to Mark Minton for suggesting this molecule.

Push nose for 3D structure

Crown Ethers and Lariat Ethers

Both these molecules get their names from their distinctive shapes. Crown ethers look like crowns (shown in red in the picture on the right), whereas lariat ethers look like lassos, and are really just crown ethers with extended 'tails' (shown in blue). Some lariat ethers are so flexible that they can stick their tails into their rings (nice trick!), and so have been termed 'ostrich complexes', or 'tail biters'. Lariat ethers with two tails are called 'bibrachial lariat ethers' (bracchium means 'arm'), and are abbreviated as BiBLEs.

Thanks to Mark Minton for suggesting this molecule.

A lariat ether - click for 3D structure


This molecule gets its name from the Greek kakodes, meaning 'stinking', as it has a really pungent smell of manure with a delicate hint of garlic. It is sometimes spelled 'kakodyl', but its correct name is tetramethyl diarsenic. Its main claim to fame is that it was one of the compounds worked on by Bunsen (of burner fame).

Thanks to Birgit Schulz for suggesting this molecule and to Lars Finsen for correcting the spelling of the name.

Betweenanene (Screwene)

Betweenanenes are molecules which have a trans double bond shared between two cycloalkanes. There is a whole family of them, depending upon the size of each ring. The one shown on the right is the [10,10] betweenanene. If there are two double bonds linked together, the molecules are called screwenes, but this terminology isn't that popular, for obvious reasons!

More info see: J. Am. Chem. Soc. 99 (1977) 3508.
Thanks to Mark Minton for suggesting this molecule.

Betweenanene  - click for 3D structure
Paddlane - click for 3D structure


Paddlanes are molecules which have bicyclic cyclohexane units, which look a bit like the paddles on Mississippi steamboats.

Thanks to Mark Minton for suggesting this molecule.

Steve Martin in 'The Man with 2 Brains'

I bet Dr. Michael Hfuhruhurr could use some furfuryl furfurate about now...

Furfuryl Furfurate

A ridiculously-named molecule, about which I know virtually nothing, although I'm told it's quite smelly and may be used as a vapour phase polymerisation inhibitor. It got its name from the Latin "furfur", meaning "bran" (the source of the compound). A related molecule, furfural alcohol is apparently used in the fabrication process of the Reinforced Carbon-Carbon (RCC) sections used in the space shuttle.

Thanks to Steve Colley for suggesting this molecule, and to Calli Arcale and Ogpusatan and Danny Sichel for info about it.

ffffffffurfuryl ffffffurfurate
A carnal painting?  Rembrandt's Bathsheba...


Carnallite is KMgCl3·6H2O, an evaporite mineral. Surprisingly for a mineral called carnallite, it doesn't exhibit any cleavage... It's used as an ore for potassium fertilizers, and is named after Rudolf von Carnall, a Prussian mining engineer, whose knowledge of the subject was famous...

Thanks to Phillip Barak of the Virtual Museum of Minerals and Molecules for suggesting this mineral.

Carnal knowledge?


Draculin is the anticoagulant factor in vampire bat saliva. It is a large glycoprotein made from a sequence of 411 amino acids, but I haven't been able to find a picture of it yet.

Thanks to Mark Baxter for suggesting this molecule and to Eric Walters for some of the info about it.

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