What Is an Organic Molecule?

An organic molecule is typically a compound that contains carbon atoms bonded together in chains or rings. Organic molecules are found in living systems and may also contain nitrogen, sulfur, oxygen, and hydrogen bonded to the carbon atoms.

Organic molecules can exist in any of the three states of matter. For example, one of the simplest organic molecules, methane, exists mostly as a gas. Several cooking oils, such as olive oil, are chains of organic molecules in a liquid form, as are several alcohols, such as ethanol. In the human body, the amino acids that make proteins are organic solids.