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12 Extremely Weird Names of Molecules

Kate Mulcahy . . . Comments

Molecules make up all the matter around us. Their interactions allow us to think, move, and feel, and provide us with countless spectacles of nature. Some are simple whereas others are hugely complex. In order to keep track of all of these, molecules follow strict naming rules which describe their shapes, properties, or how they were discovered. This affords little room for fun names, but every so often one slips through.




Arsole is a pyrrole molecule with an arsenic atom in it. Its name is purely based on the standard chemical rules for naming, but is quite an amusing name nonetheless.




Basketane is made up of carbons and hydrogens connected to each other by single bonds. This means it belongs to a family of molecules called alkanes, whose names must all end with –ane. Basketane bears a strong resemblance to a basket, hence its name.




Originally described as “nonacyclodocosane, a bastard tetramantane” as it was an unwanted child or derivative of tetramantane. After it was described in this paper, scientists immediately adopted the name “bastardize” to describe it.


Broken Windowpane


This molecule looks like a classical window which is missing a single pane. It belongs to a class of molecules called fenestrane, which comes from the Romantic word for window.




Found in rotting animal tissues. Cadaverine smells awful and is understandably hated by those who deal with cadavers. Similar compounds are putrescine and spermine.




Like basketane, this molecule is an alkane, and so its name must end with –ane. Since it looks like a cube, it is called cubane. Other alkanes named after 3D solids are tetrahedron, which looks like a tetrahedron, and dodecadrane, which looks like a dodecagon.




This mineral garnered its unfortunate name from the place it was found: Cummington in Massachusetts, USA. It is also more sensibly called magnesium iron silicate hydroxide.



Diethyl Azodicarboxylate-3D

A stinging carcinogenic whose name is an appropriate acronym of DiEthyl AzoDicarboxylate.



Bat576701 1

This large molecule is found in the saliva of vampire bats and is named after the legendary vampire Count Dracula.




This molecule belongs to the family of alcohols, and so its name ends with –ol. It was originally found in seaweed with the name Fucus vesiculosis, and so it ended up with the odd name fucitol (pronounced with a hard ‘c’). Compounds derived from fucose, a sugar from the seaweed, are often abbreviated with fuc. Fucose kinase is fuc-K, and another is fuc-U.




A group of organic molecules that contain alkanes (hence the –and at the end of their names) and also look like a ladder.




This wonderful molecule is one of the family of ketones, whose names end with –one, and yet it undeniably looks like a penguin. Scientists have called it penguin one.

  • Improbus

    OK, it’s a great list, and an interesting topic, but how on earth did #12, #10, #6, and #3 get past the radar???

    • Odd

      I love Cumingtonite everyday, it makes me happy… :|

      • suplado03

        I though pikachurin will make this list.

  • Eddy francis

    Without doubt the most pointless list published on this otherwise informative and entertaining site!

    • Fucitol

      fucose kinase off.

    • Jimbo

      You seem to be lacking senseofhumourane.

  • OddJobb

    #12: The picture and the word match-up.

  • Penguin

    Aww I like penguinone :)

  • derek

    seriously tho who names these molecules? it’s like the scientists are trying really hard to have a sense of humor but it comes across like this…

    • House M.D

      I understand why some of these have the names they were given. #8 explains why human sperm smells like rotting flesh. After all it does have the same molecules. Numbers 4 and 9 look exactly like the real thing. It would have been hard to name them anything but the names they were given.

      • House M.D

        I thought you’d retired ;)

      • Fishy

        If your sperm smells like rotting flesh, I think you need to get that checked out.

        • House M.D

          It’s normal. Trust me, I’m a doctor.

        • Necro

          It’s normal. Trust me, I deal with sperm and rotting flesh all day

  • Fucitol

    Really wish I’d done chem in high school if this is what you get to spend your time on. “Mix three parts arsole with one part DEAD to get fucitol”

  • roger

    So cumingtonite is like kryptonite except named after Cumington? And they never stopped to consider another name? Really?

    • Chris

      I think there needs to be an ordinary teenager on every committee that names things, and when they come up with a new name, if the teenager snickers, they change to a different one. It’s not exactly difficult to run things by someone who isn’t so obsessed with chemical names that they miss the obvious, but apparently they just can’t be bothered.

      • Vincent

        Call it the “Dr. Evil / Scottie” test.

  • dizit

    Fabulously entertaining! Every time I read a new name I had a new favorite molecule name! I’d have a hard time choosing a favorite now, but Cumingtonite has to be among the top 12 ;)

  • Tree

    This list is a truly bwahahahaha one.

    • Apple

      I know! It had me giggling like a little kid.

      • Kate Mulcahy

        hehe :) I felt like a 14 year old school girl when I read aloud some of these names.

  • Blaster

    Looks like Jamie’s spell checker has run rampant again…

    Moral: never use always manually spell check when chemical names are involved.

  • druglord

    I have actually worked with fucitol to test it’s anti cancer activity. had it as a minor project when I was an under grad.

    • :D

      I hope you took every opportunity of immature word-play there was :D

      • Kate Mulcahy

        Sometimes I think that these were named like this on purpose. Puts some humor in your everyday life when you’re a scientist. After all laughter is the best medicine :)

  • Will Trame

    Definitely some weird amusing names.

  • Mon

    I am working in a research-funding organization, and I get to work with scientists literally everyday. Sometimes it’s really difficult to talk to them especially if they are talking about their specialties and using jargons. :)

    • RDaneel

      I hope they use words like these molecule names casually without realising the double meaning!

    • Kate Mulcahy

      Sometimes you feel like an alien on a different planet when you’re around scientists. Who knows though, maybe they are :)

      • Mon

        They are my age group though (20-27) so we still have a lot of similarities to talk about. But many times when two chemists talk to each other, they start mentioning polymers and stuff. They even debate about it :)

  • ness2k


  • lahoggo

    Uranus. Need I say more.

    If only there was a peer review for naming things..

    • Stephanie

      I was going to comment, “I wonder if Arzole is from Uranus..” but you beat me to the reference. Well done!

  • Carlin surajpaul s

    The best 1 was num 13 . lol

  • Ni99a

    The bat in no 4 is saying “You don’t say”.

    In b4 someone reply “You don’t say”.

  • Zair

    some of these dont follow the usually naming nomenclature for chemistry lol the scientist probably needed some fun after naming so much molecules that they threw in these couple for kicks :)

  • Geko

    Too moleculian.

    (Great list)

  • Zimma

    Where is “1stlikealways” ??? Haha

  • Strange idea for a list, but interesting.

    Favourite is number 1 cos how can you not like penguins?

    They’re born already wearing suits! Obviously they’re the classiest animal.

  • Joanne

    I see you’ve visited this page – very old but still lots of fun :D

    Honorable mention: copper and bismuth nanotubes. I dare you to google them. [IMG]trollface[/IMG]

  • mom424

    I’m disappointed – the only weird molecule I know, Buckminsterfullerine, isn’t even mentioned. Otherwise known as a Bucky ball, it is a molecule that looks much like the geodesic domes (like a soccer ball) he’s famous for.

    Still pretty interesting; more so than I would have thought.

    ps: Buckminster Fuller was a famous architect, an.a.lyst, engineer, genius type guy – could make an entire list on his accomplishments alone.

    • RoMacdaddy

      I had an English mastiff called Bucky Ball in his honour! :-D

    • ps: Buckminster Fuller was a famous architect

      There is (was?) a Bucky geodesic dome house in Los Angeles.

  • Fid

    I studied Geology in university. One day I walk into the student hangout and there is a big note on the board about a party at someones house. “Are you interested in” and this long chemical formula. It was the formula for Cumingtonite. Geek humour.

    • lemonlimus

      7-up for short? ;)

      • ha ha! This was supposed to be in reply to Sbtier, below!

  • Sbtier

    I worked on an experimental drug for cancer. The class of drugs end in -limus and there was a push to call the compound lemonlimus. Upper management wouldn’t go for it though.

    • see comment above. I erred in my Reply click :(

  • RoMacdaddy

    what about ‘bucky ball’? (Buckminster fullerene?)

  • I wanted to see the molecules for #9 and #4 :(

    My addition:

    Skatole: the compound that makes shi* smell like shi*.

  • vanowensbody

    Cumingtonite is an amphibole group mineral closely related to asbestos. You can see the fibers in the picture.

    Great list

    • Erika

      Arliki dasagrqum mi qich uetevutytn u parzutyun ka. Bayc aha Lida Sahakyani [email protected] ahavor e . Mard em asel, vor sovori. Da menak kareli e anhatakan parapmunqneri jamanak ogtagorcel.

    • npztnkf

      H1f2TO hosiiozbrure

  • What, are we all supposed to think this list is “cute”? IT BORES ME! Off with the writer’s head!

  • oouchan

    Funny and interesting. Some I had a but of trouble figuring out how to pronounce but the topic was good. How “cumingtonite” didn’t make number one is beyond me. That was the best one. :)

    Great list.

  • BryanJ

    Nice job. It is very hard to create a funny list. “Cumingtonite” should have been ranked a little higher on the list.

  • Chiara

    Ahaha, great list! :-)

    • Kate Mulcahy

      Short and sweet, thank you :)

  • Kate has done it again! Great list, informative, interesting and

    funny !

    The science lists have always been my favorites. We’ve we’ve had some wonderful science list writers including, but not limited to (a full list would be too long), TyB (where is Ty?), Patrick W, LordZB, and of course! BryanJ! Now, after several fantastic science lists, we can add Kate.

    • Kate Mulcahy

      Thank you so much, you seem so excited with every list I made :) This list was a favorite of mine, I couldn’t resist giggling when I read aloud some of the molecule names hehe :) Thank you for the compliments; they are nice :) but I would really like to hear some new facts or anything you could add :) I think it is interesting to read the commenters opinions and knowledge they have on the subject. Any added information anyone might want to add would go towards a second list :)

      • you seem so excited with every list I made

        Yes, I admit it. You’ve written on subjects which are of interest to me, so I have a good time with them. It also helps that you write well, since I’m pretty fussy about writing. After I retired from the Hollywood film biz (script supervisor), I went to work for authors, mostly mystery authors, working both for The Mystery Writers of America and as a first line editor for several authors.

        I’ll share two (out of many) of my favorites.

        Snottites! How can you not love something named snotties, even if they didin’t do weird things (which they do). Snotties are colonies of single celled extremophilic bacteria; gelatinous mictobial mucus stalagtites living in caves. They derive their energy from chemosynthesis of volcanic sulfur compounds and excrete highly acidic waste products with the ph of battery acid. They, along with a similar bioform, phlegm balls, help to etch away cave walls and floors, enlarging the caves.

        Sonic hedgehog homolog or Sonic Hedgehog gene is one of three proteins in the mammalian signaling pathway family called hedgehog. It plays a key role in regulating vertebrate organogenesis, such as in the growth of digits on limbs and organization of the brain. Errors on the Sonic Hedgehog gene can cause extra fingers or toes or, conversely, too few.

        • ParusMajor

          Arabitol, Fucol, Nonose, Fucalite, Dickite, Gossypol, Crapinon, Fruticolon. Spamol, Fukugetin. And Funicone.

      • Fake

        Yeah, this doesn’t strike me as the real McCoy.

  • ArjayM

    Hahaha. Nice, cool and funny list.

  • Stephanie

    I enjoyed this list! Fun, quirky and I learned something new. Kate, you’re on a roll!!

  • Izz

    I know right ? xDDD

    I laughed my arse off in this one xD

    my bouche is amused

  • brent

    good things it’s Friday b/c this list sucks

  • what

    molecule names? wtf?? when are we going to get a good list

    • Johana

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  • kilkila

    Totally hilarious names! Thanks for the funny list!

  • Cubane? wtf am i suppose to laugh?

  • some random guy

    What about the chemical name of titin

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