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The word or root amyl has two meanings, in organic chemistry and biochemistry.[1]


In biochemistry, "amyl" means "pertaining to starch", "amylum" being another word for starch. Many terms for moderately complex biological chemicals related to starch contain "amyl", for example:

Note that in this usage, it is a part of the word, and becomes "amylo" when preceding a consonant.

Organic chemistry[edit]

In organic chemistry, amyl is the old trivial name for the alkyl substituent and radical called pentyl under the IUPAC nomenclature: that is, -C5H11. This usage may derive from the presence of amyl alcohol in fusel oil, which is often fermented from starches. In this usage, amyl (normally) remains a separate word and it does not become "amylo-" before a consonant.

Several important amyl/pentyl compounds are still widely known by their older, amyl names, including:

There are eight possible isomers of amyl; see under pentyl for more information. Frequently chemicals sold commercially as amyl compounds will be a mixture of several isomers.


"Amyl" is also a slang term for amyl nitrite when used as a recreational drug.


"Amyl", used to mean "starch" (Latin "amylum"), and was taken from Greek αμυλος = "cake made from fine flour", from α + μυλη = "not mill", the flour not being ground on grindstones as bread flour is, but dried from a pulp of wheat softened with water.[2]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Kjonaas, Richard A. (1996). "Amyl: A Misunderstood Word". Journal of Chemical Education 73: 1127. doi:10.1021/ed073p1127. 
  2. ^ Pliny the Elder, The Natural History (Pliny), Book XIII, Chapter 17, [1]