Atoms and Molecules

Molecules and Chemical Bonds

What is electronegativity?

Electronegativity is a property that describes the tendency of an atom to attract electrons in a chemical bond. The most electronegative atoms are those which “pull” hardest on the electron density they share in a bond with another atom. There is more than one scale and definition for electronegativity, and our description here follows that given by Linus Pauling, which is the most commonly used scale in chemistry courses. Electronegativity can most readily be described in terms of the number of protons in the nucleus of the atom and the distance to which its valence electron cloud extends away from the nucleus. As a general trend, the most electronegative atoms are those with the shortest distance between the valence electrons and the nucleus. Electronegativity isn’t a physical quantity that can be directly measured, but several scales have been developed that derive values for this property based on other measurable physical quantities.


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