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Hydroxyl Group: Definition, Structure & Formula

Hydroxyl Group: Definition, Structure & Formula
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  • 0:02 What Is a Hydroxyl Group?
  • 0:43 Structure & Formula
  • 1:21 Hydroxyl Group Example
  • 1:52 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: LaRita Williams

LaRita holds a master's degree and is currently an adjunct professor of Chemistry.

In this lesson, we will define the term 'functional group' and talk specifically about the hydroxyl functional group. We will discuss the hydroxyl group's structure and formula and look at an example.

What Is a Hydroxyl Group?

Have you ever used rubbing alcohol to clean a minor cut or scrape? Have you ever seen people drink an adult beverage, such as wine or beer? If you answered yes to either of these questions, then you already have some familiarity with hydroxyl groups.

Hydroxyl groups are a class of organic functional groups. In organic chemistry, carbon-containing compounds are grouped according to the arrangement of certain atoms in the molecule. These arrangements are called functional groups, so named because they make the compound function, or react, in a specific way. When a hydroxyl group is the dominant functional group in an organic compound, that compound behaves as an alcohol.

Structure & Formula

Each hydroxyl group that characterizes our alcohols is composed of one oxygen atom singly bonded to a hydrogen atom. This can be represented as -OH or HO- when the compound is drawn or written out. Here, the bond between oxygen and hydrogen is not shown, and the dash represents another single bond from the oxygen atom in the hydroxyl group to a carbon atom in the rest of the molecule.

Here we see the structure of a hydroxyl group:

Hydroxyl Group Chemical Structure
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The capital letter 'R' here is used as shorthand for the 'rest' of the compound. This is where that carbon atom connecting the hydroxyl group is located.

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