Ethers are compounds having two alkyl or aryl groups bonded to an oxygen atom, as in the formula R1–O–R2. The ether functional group does not have a characteristic IUPAC nomenclature suffix, so it is necessary to designate it as a substituent. To do so the common alkoxy substituents are given names derived from their alkyl component, as shown in the table on the right below. Examples of ether nomenclature are provided on the left. Simple ethers are given common names in which the alkyl groups bonded to the oxygen are named in alphabetical order followed by the word "ether". The top left example shows the common name in blue under the IUPAC name. Many simple ethers are symmetrical, in that the two alkyl substituents are the same. These are named as "dialkyl ethers". Examples are: CH3CH2OCH2CH3, diethyl ether (sometimes referred to as ether), and CH3OCH2CH2OCH3, ethylene glycol dimethyl ether (glyme).
Sulfur analogs of ethers (R–S–R') are called sulfides. For example, (CH3)3C–S–CH3 is tert-butyl methyl sulfide. Sulfides are chemically more reactive than ethers, reflecting the greater nucleophilicity of sulfur relative to oxygen.