An inorganic compound is typically a chemical compound that lacks carbon–hydrogen bonds, that is, a compound that is not an organic compound. However, the distinction is not clearly defined; authorities have differing views on the subject. The study of inorganic compounds is called inorganic chemistry.
Some simple compounds that contain carbon are often considered inorganic. Examples include carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide, carbides, and the following salts of inorganic cations: carbonates, cyanides, cyanates, and thiocyanates. Many of these are normal parts of mostly organic systems, including organisms; describing a chemical as inorganic does not necessarily mean that it does not occur within living things.
Friedrich Wöhler's conversion of ammonium cyanate into urea in 1828 is often cited as the starting point of modern organic chemistry. In Wöhler’s era, there was widespread belief that organic compounds were characterized by a vital spirit. In the absence of vitalism, the distinction between inorganic and organic chemistry is merely semantic.
- The Inorganic Crystal Structure Database (ICSD) in its definition of "inorganic" carbon compounds, states that such compounds may contain either C-H or C-C bonds, but not both.
- The book series Inorganic Syntheses does not define inorganic compounds. The majority of its content deals with metal complexes of organic ligands.
- IUPAC does not offer a definition of "inorganic" or "inorganic compound" but does define inorganic polymer as "...skeletal structure that does not include carbon atoms."