functional group, in organic chemistry, group of atoms within a molecule that is responsible for certain properties of the molecule and reactions in which it takes part. Organic compounds are frequently classified according to the functional group or groups they contain. For example, methanol, ethanol, and isopropanol are all classified as alcohols since each contains a functional hydroxyl group.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.