International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry
Chemistry and Human Health Division
Medicinal Chemistry Section


(IUPAC Recommendations 1998)

Prepared for publication by C.G. Wermuth1 (Chairman), C.R. Ganellin2, P. Lindberg3 and L.A. Mitscher4

1Faculté de Pharmacie, Université Louis Pasteur, Strasbourg (France),
2University College London, London (U.K.)
3Astra Hässle AB, Mölndal (Sweden)
4School of Pharmacy, University of Kansas, Lawrence (Kansas, USA)
World Wide Web version prepared by Gerard P. Moss
School of Physical and Chemical Sciences, Queen Mary University of London,
Mile End Road, London, E1 4NS, UK

The definitions used in this glossary are identical to those in the published document, see Pure Appl. Chem., 70, 1129-1143 (1998) [Copyright IUPAC; reproduced with the permission of IUPAC]. If you use any of these definitions please cite this reference as their source. For problems in converting the text into a World Wide Web version see the IUPAC home page.

A PDF of the document is available.

For Belorussian version see
Any comments, corrections or suggestions for additional entries in a future edition should be e-mailed to or


Note on entries
Index of entries
Entries A-H
Entries I-X

Abstract: The objective of the glossary is to provide in a single document a consistent terminology and concise definitions of terms covering the various aspects of medicinal chemistry. This was felt necessary with regard to the rapid changes occuring in medicinal chemistry and also by the need to establish international definition standards. Effectively the possibility exists that in different countries certain terms may not have the same meaning, in such a case the creation of an internationally accepted definition is particularly justified.

A Working Party belonging to the IUPAC Section on Medicinal Chemistry has therefore been assembled which prepared the present glossary. Concise but sufficiently explanatory definitions have been formulated for about one hundred commonly employed terms which can be considered of particular interest to the medicinal chemistry community. The glossary has been compiled in part from definitions proposed by the Working Party in part from earlier IUPAC glossaries and in part from well-accepted definitions taken from the literature but which were sometimes published in journals or books that may not be readily accessible.


The glossary has been compiled in part from definitions proposed by the Working Party and in part from well-accepted definitions taken from the literature. In most cases, definitions given here are for specific areas of medicinal chemistry. Some definitions taken from the Glossary for Chemists of Terms Used in Biotechnology (Pure Appl. Chem., 1992, 64, 143-168; (c) 1992 IUPAC) were also included, eventually in a slightly modified form; they are identified by an asterisk*. Others, which appear in the Glossary on Computational Drug Design (Pure Appl. Chem., 1997, 69, 1137-1152) and in Glossary for Chemists of terms used in Toxicology (Pure Appl. Chem. 1993, 65, 2003-2122), are identified by a double** and a triple*** asterisk respectively.

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