Is there a term for a compound of carbon, hydrogen, and oxygen?

There is hydrocarbon for a compound of carbon and hydrogen. There is also carbohydrate but that requires the ratio of hydrogen to oxygen to be 2:1.

As well as the carbohydrates, there are many other compounds of these three elements: alcohols, aldehydes, ketones, esters, etc. Yet, I cannot find a term for the whole group. Have I missed something or just no need is felt for such a term?

  • 4
    $\begingroup$ There is no general term for this group. It's quite arbitrary to categorise organic compounds just by the elements they contain, and not useful. $\endgroup$
    – Karl
    Commented May 13, 2018 at 14:38
  • $\begingroup$ @Karl Thanks. Of course, it is not an important point but given that the term hydrocarbon is quite common, it seemed a little surprising that there was no term for this group. I guess that hydrocarbons share a lot more properties than this group. $\endgroup$
    – badjohn
    Commented May 13, 2018 at 14:48
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ "hydrocarbons" (!= carbohydrates) is also only useful with an additional adjective (aliphatic, olefinic, aromatic). The group is too big and diverse, nobody talks about just plain "hydrocarbons". "Carbohydrate" is a synonym for sugars. Now that's a useful category. $\endgroup$
    – Karl
    Commented May 13, 2018 at 14:53
  • $\begingroup$ @Karl Thanks again. Just "hydrocarbon" is common outside of chemistry but I can see that it is too broad in a more serious setting. Of course, my group with oxygen is huge. I am fairly familiar with carbohydrates as my son studies biochemistry. $\endgroup$
    – badjohn
    Commented May 13, 2018 at 15:18

1 Answer 1


There is no term for this group as it is too broad and diverse. Even the narrower term hydrocarbon is usually qualified e.g. aliphatic, olefinic, aromatic.

With thanks to Karl.


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