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Why are alkanes also called as paraffins? Is it because they are mainly found from petroleum and natural gas?

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  • $\begingroup$ I don't have concrete proof for this, but as my teacher said it is because it has a wax like texture. $\endgroup$ – Rohinb97 Aug 16 '15 at 14:17
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The origin of the word is historical, and has to do with the observed properties of the class of hydrocarbons we know refer to as alkanes. The name originated in the Latin for "little affinity."

From M. P. Crosland's text Historical Studies in the Language of Chemistry:

The term paraffin was coined by Reichenbach (from Lat. parum + affinis = little affinity) to denote a particular substance, a mixture of hydrocarbons (Journal fur Chemie und Physik, 59 (1830), 455). The term was extended to cover any hydrocarbons of the series $\ce{C_{\rm n}H_{\rm 2n + 2}}$ by Watts (Dictionary of Chemistry, 1868, vol. iv, p. 344 and Supplement, 1872, p. 705).

Reichenbach, referred to above, is Carl Reichenbach, a multifaceted scientist who did pioneering work in isolating (and thus naming) hydrocarbons in the early 1830's.

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As already noted in Todd Minehardt's answer, the name "paraffin" is based on the Latin words parum + affinis = "little affinity".

The "little affinity" behind their Latin name referring to their relatively low reactivity. They have "little affinity" for other elements or compounds and a consideration of their chemical structure will make you see why.

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    $\begingroup$ Well, it's not a great answer, and it's certainly not an expansion of anything. But it's not VLQ IMO. $\endgroup$ – M.A.R. Aug 16 '15 at 17:05
  • $\begingroup$ I can see semantics is more important than assistance here. This was a simple development of an answer already given, using facts that perhaps should have been included in the first place for clarity. The questioner must be perplexed at these developments and I - as a very experienced educationalist who thought your site was an excellent idea and opportunity to help - certainly am. Rest assured I shall not trouble you or the site further. $\endgroup$ – Elinesterado Aug 16 '15 at 17:36
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Petrol is a word which refers a combination of all hydrocarbons in that major part is paraffins (alkanes)(as the chemical structure shows that all the single bonded joins are called as alkanes). So paraffins are also called as alkanes. But the fact tell us (any of the series of saturated hydrocarbons including methane, ethane, propane, and higher members.)

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Since alkanes are saturated, their reactivity seems to be less, hence the name parafin due to less affinity.

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Paraffins means little reactive and alkanes are little rective due to presence of single bond. Therefore they are also called paraffins

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    $\begingroup$ A rehash offering nothing novel to the answers already present. $\endgroup$ – Jan Nov 9 '17 at 3:54

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