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An organic compound is any member of a large class of chemical compounds whose molecules contain carbon, with the exception of carbides, carbonates, and carbon oxides. The study of organic compounds is termed organic chemistry. Many of these compounds, such as proteins, fats, and carbohydrates (sugars), are also of prime importance in biochemistry.

The dividing line between organic and inorganic is contended and historically arbitrary; generally speaking, however, organic compounds are defined as those compounds which have carbon-hydrogen bonds, and inorganic compounds, those without. Thus carbonic acid is inorganic, whereas formic acid, the first fatty acid, is organic, although it could as well be called "carbonous acid".

The name "organic" is a historical name, dating back to 19th century, when it was believed that organic compounds could only be synthesised in living organisms through vis vitalis - the "life-force". The theory that organic compounds were fundamentally different than those that were "inorganic", that is, not synthesized through a life-force, was disproven with the synthesis of urea, an organic compound, from potassium cyanate and ammonium sulfate by Friedrich Wöhler.

Most pure organic compounds are artificially produced; however, the term "organic" is also used to describe products produced without artificial chemicals (also see organic production).

See also

  • Organic chemistry
  • Inorganic chemistry of carbon
  • List of organic compounds
  • List of compounds

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