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Ester and Ether: Definition and Differences

Last Updated : 03 Jan, 2024
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Ester and Ether are functional groups that classify organic chemical compounds. The basic difference between ether and ester is in their atomic structure. In an ester, there are two oxygen and a carbon atom whereas in ether, there are only one Oxygen and two Carbon atoms.

The image of the structure of Ether and Easter is shown in the image below.


In this article, we will learn about, the Ether Definition, Ester Definition, their Differences Between Easters and Ethers, and others in detail.

Esters and Ethers

The major difference between Ester and Ether is added in the table below,

Difference Between Ether and Ester



Ester do not have symmetrical structures due to the presence of the carbonyl group

Ethers can have symmetrical structures if both alkyl groups on either side of the oxygen atom in an ether group are similar

Esters have the functional group -COO

Ethers have the functional group -O-

Ester have polar bonds

Ether have both polar or nonpolar bonds

A double bond between carbon and oxygen atom

A single bond between carbon and oxygen atom

Derived from carboxylic acids

Derived from alcohol

Esters that have fragrant odours are used as a constituent pf perfumes, essential oils, food flavorings, cosmetics

They are relatively unreactive, and as a result they are useful as solvents for fats, oils, waxes, perfumes, resins, dyes, gums and hydrocarbons

Ester boiling point is 57°C

Ether boiling point is 34.6°C

Ester melting point is -98°C

Ether melting point is -116.3°C

Example: Ethyl Propanoate

Example: Pentabromodiphenyl Ether

Now let’s learn about Ester and Ether in brief.

What is Ester?

An ester is a derivative of a carboxylic acid in which there is a carbon group connected to the single-bonded oxygen. Ester is a chemical compound formed by the combination of an organic or inorganic acid. By the reaction of an acid with an alcohol, an ester is formed. Name the alkyl or aromatic portion contributed by the “alcohol part” first. The “acid part” is named a carboxylic acid, with the -ic acid suffix changed to -ate. Esters have a pleasant, sweet aroma, hence they are used in synthetic flavoring, perfume, nail polish removers, ink, pharmaceutical industry, and biodiesel. Ester has a fruity odor.

Formula of Ester: R-COO-R’

Uses of Ester

Various uses of Ester are,

  • It is used as food flavouring.
  • Esters are used as fragrances or perfumes.
  • They are also widely used as solvents.
  • It is also used as plasticizers.
  • Polyesters can be transformed into fibres for clothing.
  • Esters are used in the production of surfactants such as soaps and detergents.
  • Esters with pleasant odours are used in perfumes, essential oils, food flavourings, cosmetics, etc.

What is Ether?

Ether group is a group where an oxygen atom is singly bonded to two carbon atoms (Alkyl groups). Ethers have the general formula R–O–R′, where R and R′ represent the alkyl or aryl groups. Ether is an organic chemical compound that is highly volatile in nature.

Ethers are of two types,

  • Symmetrical Ethers (General formula R – O- R) – Example: CH3 – O – CH3 (Methoxy Methane)
  • Unsymmetrical Ethers (General formula R – O – R’) – Example: CH3 – O – CH3 (Methoxy Ethane)

Formula of Ether: R-O-R’

Uses of Ether

Various uses of Ether are,

  • It is widely used as commercial solvents.
  • Ether is used as a cooling agent.
  • Diethyl ether is used as an anesthetic in surgery.
  • It is used as an invert solvent in Grignard reagent and solvent in the industry for resin, oils, etc.
  • Ether is used along with petrol as a motor fuel.
  • It is commonly used as a solvent in laboratories.

Esters and Ethers-FAQs

1. How is Ether Made?

Ethyl ether is manufactured by the distillation of ethyl alcohol with sulfuric acid.

2. Which Bond is Stronger Ether or Ester?

Among Ether and Ester the bond that is more prone to chemical reaction is Ester, thus ether compound are more stable.

4. How does Ester Smell?

Esters have a distinct odor due to the weak intermolecular interactions they exhibit.

5. How are Ester Formed?

Condensation reaction between an alcohol and a carboxylic acid produces esters.

6. What is Functional Group of Ether?

Ethers are a class of organic compounds containing Ether group, an atom of oxygen bound to two classes of alkyl or aryl. They have the general R-O-R’ formula.

7. What is Functional Group of Ester?

Esters are a class of organic compounds containing -COO- group. They have the general R-COO-R’ formula.

8. Why is it Called Ether?

The word Ether is derived from Latin word is Aether, which means “the upper pure, bright air”.

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