David has a master's degree in organic chemistry and a doctor of chiropractic degree. He has taught general and organic chemistry, physical science, and biology. He has been a study.com contributor for four years.
Have you ever been to a soccer game? If you have, you know that each team is made up of 11 players. One player does not make up a team, all members must be present for the team to function properly. Each player has a specific position to play. The goalie, for example, is responsible for protecting the goal and preventing the other team from scoring.
Acyl Group vs Acetyl Group
Similar to a soccer player, both an acyl group and an acetyl group are just parts, not the whole thing. They are parts of a molecule. A part of a molecule is called a moiety. So, to complete the analogy, an acyl group and an acetyl group are like the soccer players, and the molecule is like the soccer team.
While an acetyl group is the name of a specific kind of moiety, however, an acyl group is the name of a group of moieties. It would be like calling the acetyl group a goalie, a specific position, while the acyl group would be a defender, the name given to several players on the team whose job it is to defend, including the goalie. So, an acetyl group is a type of acyl group.
Let's start by talking about the acyl group, a general type of moiety that has many specific moieties classified under it. An acyl group is made up of two parts. The first part is a carbonyl group, which is a carbon double bonded to an oxygen. The second part is an alkyl group, which is simply a moiety made up of only carbons and hydrogens. The simplest kind of acyl group is made up of a carbonyl group and one other carbon with its associated hydrogens.
The acyl group is not limited to a carbonyl group with only one other carbon, however. The alkyl group associated with the acyl group can contain any number of carbons in any number of configurations.
So, if an acyl group is made up of a carbonyl group and an alkyl group, which, in turn, is made up of any number of carbons and hydrogens, what is an acetyl group? We already know that it belongs to the acyl family, and we have actually already seen it. The acetyl group is the simplest of the acyl family, the one with only one carbon (a methyl group, -CH3) other than the carbonyl.
Review of Definitions
So, just to be sure, let's review the language.
- Acyl group: a general moiety made up of a carbonyl group and some kind of alkyl group
- Acetyl group: a moiety made up of a carbonyl group and a methyl group
- Moiety: a part of a molecule
- Carbonyl group: a carbon double bonded to an oxygen
- Alkyl group: a moiety made up of any combination of carbons and hydrogens
An acetyl group is a type of acyl group. Both are moieties or parts of molecules. The acyl group is a moiety made up of a carbonyl group and an alkyl group (containing only carbons and hydrogens), while the acetyl group is a specific type of acyl made up of a carbonyl and a methyl (CH3) group.
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