Encyclopedia of Lipidomics

Living Edition
| Editors: Markus R. Wenk

Nomenclature of Fatty Acids

  • Harald C. KöfelerEmail author
Living reference work entry
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-94-007-7864-1_15-1


Double Bond Oleic Acid Fatty Acid Methyl Ester Palmitic Acid Chain Fatty Acid 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.
Fatty acids are either called by their systematic names according to the IUPAC (International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry, http://www.iupac.org/) nomenclature or by their trivial names. Actually trivial names are used much more frequently than systematic names, because most researchers in the field of lipidomics or lipid research are more familiar with these names than with systematic names. Another systematic way of naming fatty acids would be a shorthand nomenclature which has evolved over decades where fatty acids are named by the abbreviation FA, their number of carbon atoms, and their number of double bonds after a colon, e.g., FA 16:0. Sometimes, the shorthand nomenclature also contains the positioning of the first double bond from the omega end written in parenthesis, e.g., FA 18:3(n-3). The omega position of the first double bond helps in some cases not to confuse fatty acids differing just in the position of double bonds. In a sometimes used variation of this shorthand nomenclature, the term FA would be substituted by a C, e.g., C 16:0. For some rare species, the term tr can be inserted for highlighting a double bond of trans conformation, e.g., FA tr18:1 (n-9) for elaidic acid. Trivial names of fatty acids are often derived from the biological source in which they were discovered first. For example palmitic acid was its first time extensively described in palm oil, lauric acid in Lauraceae seeds, arachidic acid in groundnut (Arachis hypogea) oil, and oleic acid also in palm oil (Table 1).
Table 1

Systematic and common names of selected fatty acids

Systematic name

Shorthand nomenclature

Trivial name

Pentanoic acid

FA 5:0

Valeric acid

Hexanoic acid

FA 6:0

Caproic acid

Octanoic acid

FA 8:0

Caprylic acid

Nonanoic acid

FA 9:0

Pelargonic acid

cis-4-Decenoic acid

FA 10:1 (n-6)

Obtusilic acid

cis-9-Decenoic acid

FA 10:1 (n-1)

Caproleic acid

Decanoic acid

FA 10:0

Capric acid

cis-5-Dodecenoic acid

FA 12:1 (n-7)

5-lauroleic acid

cis-4-Dodecenoic acid

FA 12:1 (n-8)

Linderic acid

Dodecanoic acid

FA 12:0

Lauric acid

cis-9-Tetradecenoic acid

FA 14:1 (n-5)

Myristoleic acid

cis-5-Tetradecenoic acid

FA 14:1 (n-9)

Physeteric acid

cis-4-Tetradecenoic acid

FA 14:1 (n-10)

Tsuzuic acid

Tetradecanoic acid

FA 14:0

Myristic acid

cis-9-Hexadecenoic acid

FA 16:1 (n-7)

Palmitoleic acid

cis-6-Hexadecenoic acid

FA 16:1 (n-10)

Sapienic acid

Hexadecanoic acid

FA 16:0

Palmitic acid

Heptadecanoic acid

FA 17:0

Margaric acid

6,9,12,15-Octadecatetraenoic acid

FA 18:4(n-3)

Stearidonic acid

6,9,12-Octadecatrienoic acid

FA 18:3(n-6)

g-linolenic acid

9,12,15-Octadecatrienoic acid

FA 18:3(n-3)

a-linolenic acid

9,12-Octadecadienoic acid

FA 18:2(n-6)

Linoleic acid

cis-6-Octadecenoic acid

FA 18:1 (n-12)

Petroselinic acid

cis-9-Octadecenoic acid

FA 18:1 (n-9)

Oleic acid

tr-9-Octadecenoic acid

FA tr18:1 (n-9)

Elaidic acid

cis-11-Octadecenoic acid

FA 18:1 (n-7)

Vaccenic acid

Octadecanoic acid

FA 18:0

Stearic acid

5,8,11,14,17-Eicosapentaenoic acid

FA 20:5(n-3)

Eicosapentaenoic acid

5,8,11,14-Eicosatetraenoic acid

FA 20:4(n-6)

Arachidonic acid

8,11,14,17-Eicosatetraenoic acid

FA 20:4(n-3)


8,11,14-Eicosatrienoic acid

FA 20:3(n-6)

Dihomo-g-linolenic acid

5,8,11-Eicosatrienoic acid

FA 20:3(n-9)

Mead acid

cis-9-Eicosenoic acid

FA 20:1 (n-11)

Gadoleic acid

cis-11-Eicosenoic acid

FA 20:1 (n-9)

Gondoic acid

Eicosanoic acid

FA 20:0

Arachidic acid

4,7,10,13,16,19-Docosahexaenoic acid

FA 22:6(n-3)

Docosaheptaenoic acid

4,7,10,13,16-Docosapentaenoic acid

FA 22:5(n-6)


7,10,13,16,19-Docosapentaenoic acid

FA 22:5(n-3)

Docosapentaenoic acid

7,10,13,16-Docosatetraenoic acid

FA 22:4(n-6)


cis-11-Docosenoic acid

FA 22:1 (n-11)

Cetoleic acid

cis-13-Docosenoic acid

FA 22:1 (n-9)

Erucic acid

Docosanoic acid

FA 22:0

Behenic acid

6,9,12,15,18,21-Tetracosenoic acid

FA 24:6(n-3)

Nisinic acid

cis-15-Tetracosenoic acid

FA 24:1 (n-9)

Nervonic acid

Tetracosanoic acid

FA 24:0

Lignoceric acid

Hexacosanoic acid

FA 26:0

Cerotic acid

Heptacosanoic acid

FA 27:0

Carboceric acid

Octacosanoic acid

FA 28:0

Montanic acid

Triacontanoic acid

FA 30:0

Melissic acid

Dotriacontanoic acid

FA 32:0

Lacceroic acid

Tetratriacontanoic acid

FA 34:0

Geddic acid

Pentatriacontanoic acid

FA 35:0

Ceroplastic acid


Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Zentrum für Medizinische Forschung (ZMF)Medizinische Universität GrazGrazAustria