Difference Between Electrophile and Nucleophile

Electrophile and Nucleophile are the two important concepts in organic chemistry that help describe the chemical reactions between electron acceptors and donors. These two terms were introduced in 1933 by Christopher Kelk Ingold and they served as replacements for cationoid and anionoid terms which were introduced in 1925 by A.J. Lapworth.

Since then, extensive studies were undertaken to understand the different between electrophile and nucleophile. This article demystifies the difference between these two concepts. In a nutshell, a nucleophile is an electron donor whereas an electrophile is an electron acceptor.


What is an Electrophile?

To breakdown the term, the word “electro” is from electrons and the Latin word “phile” refers to “loving”. In simple terms, it means electrons-loving. It is a reagent that is characterized with a low density of electrons in its valance shell, and, therefore, reacts with a high-density molecule, ion or atom to form a covalent bond. Hydrogen ion in acids and methyl-carbocation are examples of electrophilic substances. They are electron deficient.