Ether is any organic compound where the carbon chain presents - O - between two carbons.

Oxygen must be linked directly to two organic radicals (alkyl or aryl).

The generic formula of ether is R - O - R, where R is the radical and O is the oxygen. See some examples:


The best known ether is common ether, or ethoxyethane or diethyl ether. It is found in pharmacy and hospitals. It is a very volatile liquid with a boiling point around 35 ° C, very flammable, colorless and with a characteristic odor. It can be used as a solvent for greases, oils, resins and paints.

It was used as an inhalation anesthetic in 1842. It caused great discomfort to patients after anesthesia and was then replaced by other anesthetics.

Common ether: CH3 - CH2 - O - CH2 - CH3

Painting of the first demonstration of surgery with ether anesthesia in the USA in 1842.

Another ether widely used is methoxy-terciobutane, which works as an anti-knock in gasoline.


The official name of the ethers, or IUPAC nomenclature, contains the word OXI between the names of the two groups. The first name must be prefixed with the smallest number of carbons. And the last name with the name of the hydrocarbon that contains the most carbons.

Smaller group + oxide - larger group


methoxy benzene

The ethers may be cyclic, ie with the chain closed. In this case, oxygen is the heteroatom.