AskDefine | Define esters

User Contributed Dictionary



  1. Plural of ester

Extensive Definition

Esters are a class of chemical compounds and functional groups. Esters consist of an inorganic or organic acid in which at least one -OH (hydroxyl) group is replaced by an -O-alkyl (alkoxy) group. Some acids that are commonly esterified are carboxylic acids, phosphoric acid, sulfuric acid, nitric acid, and boric acid. Volatile esters, particularly carboxylate esters, often have a pleasant smell and are found in perfumes, essential oils, and pheromones, and give many fruits their scent. Ethyl acetate and methyl acetate are important solvents; fatty acid esters form fat and lipids; phosphoesters form the backbone of DNA molecules; and polyesters are important plastics. Cyclic esters are called lactones. The name "ester" is derived from the German Essig-Äther (literally: vinegar ether), an old name for ethyl acetate. Esters can be synthesized in a condensation reaction between an acid and an alcohol in a reaction known as esterification.


An ester is named according to the two parts that make it up: the part from the alcohol and the part from the acid (in that order), for example ethyl ethanoate (see image below).
Since most esters, or carbonate, are derived from carboxylic acids, a specific nomenclature is used for them. For esters derived from the simplest carboxylic acids, the traditional name for the acid constituent is generally retained, e.g., formate, acetate, propionate, butyrate. For esters from more complex carboxylic acids, the systematic name for the acid is used, followed by the suffix -oate. For example, methyl formate is the ester of methanol and methanoic acid (formic acid): the simplest ester. It could also be called methyl methanoate.
Esters of aromatic acids are also encountered, including benzoates such as methyl benzoate, and phthalates, with substitution allowed in the name.

Physical properties

Esters participate in hydrogen bonds as hydrogen-bond acceptors, but cannot act as hydrogen-bond donors, unlike their parent alcohols. This ability to participate in hydrogen bonding makes them more water-soluble than their parent hydrocarbons. However, the limitations on their hydrogen bonding also make them more hydrophobic than either their parent alcohols or their parent acids. Their lack of hydrogen-bond-donating ability means that ester molecules cannot hydrogen-bond to each other, which, in general, makes esters more volatile than a carboxylic acid of similar molecular weight. This property makes them very useful in organic analytical chemistry: Unknown organic acids with low volatility can often be esterified into a volatile ester, which can then be analyzed using gas chromatography, gas liquid chromatography, or mass spectrometry. Many esters have distinctive odors, which has led to their use as artificial flavorings and fragrances. For example:

Ester synthesis

"Esterification" (condensation of an alcohol and an acid) is not the only way to synthesize an ester. Esters can be prepared in the laboratory in a number of other ways:

Ester reactions

Esters react in a number of ways:

External links


esters in Arabic: إستر
esters in Bulgarian: Естер
esters in Catalan: Èster
esters in Czech: Estery
esters in Danish: Ester
esters in German: Ester
esters in Estonian: Estrid
esters in Spanish: Éster
esters in Esperanto: Estero
esters in Persian: استر (شیمی)
esters in French: Ester
esters in Korean: 에스터
esters in Croatian: Esteri
esters in Indonesian: Ester
esters in Italian: Esteri
esters in Hebrew: אסטר
esters in Latin: Ester
esters in Latvian: Esteri
esters in Lithuanian: Esteriai
esters in Macedonian: Естер
esters in Malay (macrolanguage): Ester
esters in Dutch: Ester (chemie)
esters in Japanese: エステル
esters in Norwegian: Ester
esters in Norwegian Nynorsk: Ester
esters in Polish: Estry
esters in Portuguese: Éster
esters in Romanian: Esteri
esters in Russian: Сложные эфиры
esters in Slovak: Ester (zlúčenina)
esters in Slovenian: Ester
esters in Serbian: Estar
esters in Serbo-Croatian: Estri
esters in Sundanese: Éster
esters in Finnish: Esteri
esters in Swedish: Estrar
esters in Vietnamese: Este
esters in Turkish: Ester
esters in Ukrainian: Складні ефіри
esters in Chinese: 酯
Privacy Policy, About Us, Terms and Conditions, Contact Us
Permission is granted to copy, distribute and/or modify this document under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License, Version 1.2
Material from Wikipedia, Wiktionary, Dict
Valid HTML 4.01 Strict, Valid CSS Level 2.1