Atom vs Compound: Difference and Comparison

Everything on this planet comprises atoms and compounds, which is why they, as structures, are essential. Any object (living or non-living) we use daily, even our bodies, contains atoms.

We would not have a functioning world or any object without atoms. If something is this common and essential in our life, we should have some basic knowledge about it and its differences.

Key Takeaways

  1. Basic Unit – An atom is the smallest unit of matter that retains the chemical properties of an element. At the same time, a compound is a substance made up of two or more different types of atoms bonded together.
  2. Composition and Properties – Atoms comprise protons, neutrons, and electrons, while compounds have unique physical and chemical properties based on their constituent atoms and arrangement.
  3. Formation and Stability – Atoms are stable on their own, while compounds are formed when atoms bond and can be stable or unstable depending on the strength of their chemical bonds.

Atom vs Compound

An atom is the basic unit of matter, consisting of a nucleus of protons and neutrons surrounded by electrons. A compound is a substance of two or more types of atoms chemically bonded together. In simple terms, atoms are the building blocks of matter, and compounds are made up of multiple atoms bonded together.

Atom vs Compound

An atom is the smallest unit/ building block of matter. All solids, liquids, and gases consist of atoms (neutral or charged).

Electrons, protons, and neutrons are the sub-atomic particles of an atom. An atom is tiny in size – around 100 picometers. Each atom has a nucleus in its centre, and most of the atom’s mass is present in its nucleus.

A compound is a substance made up of one or more atoms as part of molecules. From two or more elements, a chemical bond keeps them held together.

Depending on the structure and placement of the atoms, there are four types of compounds (bonds). Only a chemical reaction can change one compound to another substance when it interacts. They cannot be broken down by physical means.

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Comparison Table

Parameters of ComparisonAtom Compound
 Definition A bit is the smallest unit or building block of any matter. A compound is a chemical substance made up of one or more molecules(made up of atoms) of different elements held together by a chemical bond.
 Etymology It is derived from a Latin word via the Greek word ‘atoms’, which means indivisible. The word compound is derived from an old French word ‘compoun’ taken from the Latin word ‘componere’, which means put together.
 Divisibility Atoms are the smallest unit of matter, so tiny that they cannot be divided or split any further. A compound is a chemical bond that can be broken into /divided to form a new and different substance by a chemical reaction.
 Types Atoms can be stable, isotopic, radioactive, etc. These are different types of atoms based on their charges. Compounds have four different types based on their bonds – covalent, ionic, metallic, and coordinated covalent bonds.
 Examples neon(Ne), hydrogen(H), iron(Fe) etc are examples of atoms. NaCl (sodium + cholrine), H2O ( Hydrogen X2 + Oxygen) etc.

What is Atom?

An atom is the smallest unit/building block of any matter- living or not. All solids, liquids, or gases are composed of atoms (charged or neutral). Without atoms, we would not have any matter functioning on this planet.

The smallest unit particle atoms cannot be divided or broken down further. They consist of three subatomic particles – neutron (no charge), proton (+ charged), and electron (- charged).

It has a nucleus in the middle that consists of 99.94% of the atom’s mass. The proton and neutrons are present in the heart (centre), and the electrons revolve in the shell/orbit present outside the nucleus.

An atom is neutral if the number of protons and electrons is equal. An electromagnetic force keeps the electrons and protons attracted, and the nuclear force keeps the neutrons and protons attracted.

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Atoms, as molecules come together in a bond to form compounds and elements. The atomic number is the number of protons in the nucleus, and the atomic mass is an atom’s mass in a chemical element.  

Examples: hydrogen (H), neon (Ne), etc.


What is a Compound?

A compound is a chemical substance of many molecules (made of atoms) from more than one element held together by a chemical bond. There are chemical formulas that specify the number of atoms in each component.

There are four types of compounds based on their bonds –

  • Covalent bonds – they hold the molecules together.
  • Ionic bonds – hold the ionic compounds together.
  • Metallic bonds – hold the inter-metallic compounds together.
  • Coordinate covalent bond- holds together a few complexes.

The bonds between atoms break and split. They then interact with the other atoms to form new compounds. Compounds are called pure substances, as no physical change can separate the compounds.

It is made up of the same kinds of molecules, which are made up of two or more types of atoms. Compounds are considered homogeneous mixtures as they have a definite composition throughout.

compound 1

Main Differences Between Atom and Compound

  1. An atom is the smallest unit/building block of matter, whereas a compound comprises the same molecules (made up of atoms) of different elements.
  2. Atoms are the smallest particle and hence, are not divisible any further, whereas compounds can be divided/ split through chemical reactions.
  3. An atom comprises subatomic particles – protons, electrons, and neutrons, whereas compounds include two or more molecules of different elements.
  4. Types of atoms are based on the charge – stable, isotopes, radioactive, etc., whereas compounds are based on the bonds – ionic bonds, covalent bonds, metallic bonds, etc.
  5. Neon (Ne) and hydrogen (H) are examples of atoms, whereas NaCl and H2O are examples of compounds.
Difference Between Atom and Compound

Last Updated : 11 June, 2023

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19 thoughts on “Atom vs Compound: Difference and Comparison”

  1. I’m glad that this post simplifies the concept of atoms and compounds in such a simple way. It’s easy to understand and I learned a lot from it.

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