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Butyric acid

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noun, plural: butyric acids

A four-carbon fatty acid, with the formula: C4H8O2


A fatty acid is a long chain of hydrocarbon. If there are no unsaturated linkages but only single bonds between carbon atoms them the fatty acid is a saturated type. This is in contrast to an unsaturated fatty acid that contains at least one double carbon-carbon bond. Butyric acid is a fatty acid (saturated type). It only has four carbon atoms in the chain. It occurs in two isomers. It is found in the butter and certain plant oils. It is, in fact, the one that produces the smell in rancid butter. It may be produced synthetically for use as emulsifying agents, disinfectants, and drugs. Butyrates or butanoates are salts and esters of the butyric acid.

Butyric acid occurs naturally in milk (particularly of goat, sheep, and buffalo). It also occurs in butter and parmesan cheese. It is produced naturally by obligate anaerobic bacteria, e.g. Clostridium butyricum, Clostridium kluyveri, Clostridium pasteurianum, Faecalibacterium prausnitzii, Fusobacterium nucleatum, Butyrivibrio fibrisolvens, and Eubacterium limosum. Butyric acid is a byproduct of bacterial fermentation. Butyric acid has an unpleasant smell and an acrid taste, with a sweetish aftertaste (similar to ether).1

Word origin: Greek boúturos ("butter")

IUPAC name:

  • Butanoic acid

Chemical formula: C4H8O2 Synonym(s):

  • butanoic acid

See also:

1 "Butyric acid". (n.d.). Human Metabolome Database. University of Alberta. Retrieved from [[1]]