AskDefine | Define ester

Dictionary Definition

ester n : formed by reaction between an acid and an alcohol with elimination of water

User Contributed Dictionary

see Ester



From Essig-Äther "acetic acid ethyl ester".


  1. A compound most often formed by the condensation of an alcohol and an acid, with elimination of water. It contains the functional group carbon-oxygen double bond joined via carbon to another oxygen atom.

Derived terms


compound with carbon-oxygen double bond joined via carbon to another oxygen atom






  1. To appear.





  1. Estonian

Related terms



  1. (plural indefinite nominative of est, (male) Estonian)
  2. 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


ester in Arabic: إستر
ester in Bulgarian: Естер
ester in Catalan: Èster
ester in Czech: Estery
ester in Danish: Ester
ester in German: Ester
ester in Estonian: Estrid
ester in Spanish: Éster
ester in Esperanto: Estero
ester in Persian: استر (شیمی)
ester in French: Ester
ester in Korean: 에스터
ester in Croatian: Esteri
ester in Indonesian: Ester
ester in Italian: Esteri
ester in Hebrew: אסטר
ester in Latin: Ester
ester in Latvian: Esteri
ester in Lithuanian: Esteriai
ester in Macedonian: Естер
ester in Malay (macrolanguage): Ester
ester in Dutch: Ester (chemie)
ester in Japanese: エステル
ester in Norwegian: Ester
ester in Norwegian Nynorsk: Ester
ester in Polish: Estry
ester in Portuguese: Éster
ester in Romanian: Esteri
ester in Russian: Сложные эфиры
ester in Slovak: Ester (zlúčenina)
ester in Slovenian: Ester
ester in Serbian: Estar
ester in Serbo-Croatian: Estri
ester in Sundanese: Éster
ester in Finnish: Esteri
ester in Swedish: Estrar
ester in Vietnamese: Este
ester in Turkish: Ester
ester in Ukrainian: Складні ефіри
ester in Chinese: 酯

Synonyms, Antonyms and Related Words

animal oil, cerate, drying oil, essential oil, fat, fatty oil, fixed oil, glycerin, glycerin jelly, glycerogel, glycerogelatin, glycerol, glycerole, grease, hydrogenated fat, lipid, margarin, mineral oil, oil, olein, oleum, palmitin, polyunsaturated fat, sebum, stearin, tallow, triolein, tripalmitin, tristearin, unsaturated fat, vegetable oil, volatile oil
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