What is the difference between an atom and a molecule? No

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles
The difference between an atom and a molecule is important to understanding basic chemistry. Let’s try to think of it in terms of something you are very familiar with. In fact, you may already know that water is also called H20. This means that two hydrogen atoms are bound or “stuck” to one oxygen atom. So, an atom is one of the smallest units of matter. Atoms of elements stand by themselves and cannot be broken down any more. They can combine with other elements to form new substances. Atoms of elements are often represented by capital letters on something called the periodic table of elements. H is called a “hydrogen atom,” O is called an “oxygen atom,” and so on. Molecules are more than one atom bound together. They may bind or “stick” to atoms like themselves. For example, two hydrogen atoms “stuck” or bound together form hydrogen molecules. Atoms may bind or “stick” to atoms of different elements to form new substances. Can you guess what two hydrogen atoms “stuck” to one oxygen atom is called? That’s right, a molecule of water! Below are some science links for kids that may be a little tough, but hang in there and have fun, too.
Approved by eNotes Editorial Team