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In chemistry, an alcohol is any organic compound in which the hydroxyl functional group (–OH) is bound to a saturated carbon atom. The term alcohol originally referred to the primary alcohol ethanol (ethyl alcohol), the predominant alcohol in alcoholic beverages.

The suffix -ol appears in the IUPAC chemical name of all substances where the hydroxyl group is the functional group with the highest priority; in substances where a higher priority group is present the prefix hydroxy- will appear in the International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry (IUPAC) name. The suffix -ol in non-systematic names (such as paracetamol or cholesterol) also typically indicates that the substance includes a hydroxyl functional group and, so, can be termed an alcohol. But many substances, particularly sugars (examples glucose and sucrose) contain hydroxyl functional groups without using the suffix. An important class of alcohols, of which methanol and ethanol are the simplest members is the saturated straight chain alcohols, the general formula for which is CnH2n+1OH.

The word "alcohol" is from the Arabic kohl (Arabic: الكحلا‎, translit. al-kuḥl‎), a powder used as an eyeliner.Al- is the Arabic definite article, equivalent to the in English. Alcohol was originally used for the very fine powder produced by the sublimation of the natural mineral stibnite to form antimony trisulfide Sb
, hence the essence or "spirit" of this substance. It was used as an antiseptic, eyeliner, and cosmetic. The meaning of alcohol was extended to distilled substances in general, and then narrowed to ethanol, when "spirits" as a synonym for hard liquor.


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