Water, Chemicals And Chemical Compounds

I have a few related questions that have been the topic of many a debate.

Is water a chemical or a chemical compound (aside from being the universal solvent).

Has “chemical” become a generic term? It seems rather pointless to use the term “chemical compound” if you can just as easily say “chemical”. I feel there must be a significant difference between the two and that the term “chemical” is used so as not to confuse the general public.

Lastly, depending how the previous has been answered, are all chemical compounds considered chemicals? Or are there exceptions?

Thanks in advance.

I just use the word ‘compound’ when talking to other chemists. They know it is a chemical and not a fenced off area. eg What compound are you trying to isolate?

I would say ‘chemical’ is synonymous with ‘chemical compound’ when talking about the noun. But ‘chemical’ can be used as a (word wot goes in front of other word) e.g chemical reaction, chemical safety, chemical product, chemical abstracts, chemical engineering, …

All chemical compounds are chemicals.

A chemical compound is a bunch of molecules, with each molecule made up of atoms (elements) combined in constant proportion.

Btw, a chemical substance can by made up of many (or one) compounds or elements.

I hope you win.

In common parlance (and especially when people are trying to sell you health food :rolleyes: ), “chemical” means “something we want you to think is nasty, unnatural, harmful, or all three”.

That really annoys me. So, what antechinus said. (Remember, the only thing that is “chemical-free” is NOTHING, i.e. a vacuum.)

You’re trying to create a distinction that doesn’t exist. The two terms are perfectly synonymous.

Oh, and yes, water is a chemical. A chemical is any molecular compound - which basically excludes ionic compounds (like salts).

The IUPAC ‘Gold Book’, the most authoritative source for chemical definitions, lacks definitions for ‘chemical’ and ‘chemical compound’, probably because these terms are necessarily vague. It does provide this definition for chemical substance:

Note that this definition does not exclude ionic substances (which are comprised of ‘formula units’ of constant composition) or elemental substances comprised of atoms. Making a distinction between these types of substances is unnecessary and confusing (e.g. ‘salt isn’t a chemical [compound], it’s an ionic substance’). Some high-school level definitions of ‘chemical compound’ do require the substance to be comprised of more than one type of atom, but this is a rather pedantic distinction used for teaching the composition of different types of substances.

In the literature, ‘chemical’ and ‘chemical compound’ are not commonly used, for the reason antechinus mentioned. Generally, one would use ‘compound’ or a more descriptive label (‘the alcohol’, ‘the ketone’, ‘the polypeptide’).

Saturday Night Live episode featuring Al Franken:

“Then there’s H2O–simple water! See? Everything’s a chemical!”
“Here, have a drink of this!! It’s H2SO4!”
<gulp, gulp>
“Yes, simple sulfuric acid!”
<gag, splurt>

I would categorically disagree with that statement. Salts are definitely chemicals, by any definition I encountered in my chemistry degree.

:: shuts up ::
Well, I decided not to pursue a chemistry degree, so I can’t argue. I’m probably remembering what I learned in high school chemistry.

It sounds to me like the chemists here are saying that the word “chemical” is used as an adjective only in their field, not a noun. But in popular usage, we laity say “chemical” to mean “chemical compound.”

Agree. You can quibble over whether or not it’s a compound and/or a molecule–if anything, the entire lattice could be one large molecule–but it’s definitely a chemical.

Couldn’t one also refer to a chemical element, i.e., a substance that is made of single atoms not bonded together - covalently or ionically - such as helium, neon, or other noble elements?