How to Memorize Ionic Compounds

Use the periodic table to help you learn the names of ionic compounds
••• Jason Reed/Photodisc/Getty Images

Reciting the names of ionic compounds may seem a daunting task. However, there are a few simple rules you can use in memorizing the most commonly encountered ionic compounds in chemistry. An ionic compound has two parts: a positively charged cation and a negatively charged anion. By following rules for naming each part, you will find the process simple and easy.

Naming Cations

    Determine if the cation has only one possible charge by looking at the periodic table. If so, the cation name is simply the name of the compound. For example: NaCl is sodium chloride and KOH is potassium hydroxide. The alkali metals most commonly encountered are sodium (Na), lithium (Li) and potassium (K). The most commonly encountered alkali earth metals are magnesium (Mg) and calcium (Ca). Other metals that have only one charge include aluminum (Al), zinc (Zn) and silver (Ag).

    Determine if the cation is a transition metal. Some metals require a change of name: Pb = plumb, Fe = ferr, Cu = cupr, Sn = stan. You can remember these names by referring to their symbols.

    Determine if the cation has two possible charges. If so, name cations with the lower charge with the suffix "-ous" and the higher charge with the suffix "-ic." For example, Cu+ is cuprous, Cu2+ is cupric. Fe2+ is ferrous, Fe3+ is ferric. Pb2+ is plumbus, Pb3+ is plumbic. Hg(2)2+ is mercurous, Hg2+ is mercuric. Sn2+ is stannous, Sn4+ is stannic.

    Determine if the cation is hydrogen. If so, it is simply named "hydrogen." For example, H2S is hydrogen sulfide.

Naming Anions

    Determine if the anion is a negatively charged single element. If so, then name it with the suffix -ide. For example: O = oxide, F = flouride, Cl = chloride, Br = bromide.

    Determine if the anion is a polyatomic anion with oxygen. If so, use the suffix "-ate" for compounds with more oxygen, and -ite in compounds with less oxygen. For example: SO4 = sulfate, SO3 = sulfite, NO3 = nitrate, NO2 = nitrite.

    Determine if the anion is -OH. If so, it is named hydroxide. For example: KOH is potassium hydroxide.

    Determine if the anion is hydrogen. If so, it is named "hydride." For example: LiH is lithium hydride.


    • To name ionic compounds, you must first know the names and symbols of the most commonly encountered elements. If you are not familiar with them, obtain a periodic table and learn this information.

Related Articles

How to Name Acids
How to Name Polyatomic Ions
How to Use Roman Numerals in Chemistry Nomenclature
How to Write Chemical Formulas for Transition Metals
How to Write a Chemical Compound Formula
How to Name Covalent Compounds
How to Determine the Charge of Transition Metal Ions
How to Name Ionic Compounds
How to Name Acids
Easy Way to Learn Chemistry Formulas
How to Find Out If an Element Is an Ion
How to Calculate Valency of Radicals
How to Find Out If a Compound Is a Strong Electrolyte
Tricks to Remember the Polyatomic Ions
Non Neutral Atoms Examples
What Is a Superscript in a Chemical Formula?
What is a Monatomic Ion?
How to Find the Number of Ions in a Compound
Are Ions Hydrophobic Or Hydrophilic?

Dont Go!

We Have More Great Sciencing Articles!