The Vitamin alphabet

The naming of vitamins began with Funk’s isolated concentrate. The molecule present here was called vitamin B, since it cured Beri beri disease. Following this, vitamins were name alphabetically: vitamin A was discovered in 1913-1914, and then in chronological order, vitamin C, vitamin D which could cure rickets disease, and vitamin E which was important to fertility. The later discovery of a vitamin required for blood clotting led to the naming of vitamin K where the K denotes koagulation.

One particular group of vitamins was found to have similar properties and functions, in that they are all coenzymes (aids to enzymes). These are the B group vitamins, which are all water-soluble. Initially, they were given numbers, but as their chemical structures were determined, they were given names which are now increasingly used. A list of the main B vitamins is given below:






Nicotinamide (Niacin)


Pantothenic acid




Folic acid




There are also a number of associated chemicals which resemble B vitamins and may or may not have vitamin status. These include choline, inositol and para-aminobenzoic acid, as well as vitamin B15 (pangamic acid) and vitamin B17 (amygdalin)

Some of the other vitamins also have common names. Vitamin A is commonly known as retinol. Vitamin C is called ascorbic acid, and the common name of vitamin E is tocopherol.

In the past there have been a number of other molecules classed as vitamins, and the letters F, G, H, M and P have all been used to denote them. However, there is no longer a comprehensive alphabet of vitamins. Some letters are used to denote other micronutrients such as minerals.