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Ethyl Alcohol vs. Ethanol: What's the Difference?

Edited by Aimie Carlson || By Janet White || Published on December 24, 2023
Ethyl alcohol and ethanol are identical, both referring to a chemical compound with the formula C2H5OH, commonly used in beverages, sanitizers, and as a solvent.

Key Differences

Ethyl alcohol, a common name in chemistry, refers to the same chemical substance as ethanol. Ethanol is the more scientifically preferred term for this alcohol compound, recognized globally.
Both ethyl alcohol and ethanol describe a colorless, volatile liquid, widely used in various industries. Whether called ethyl alcohol or ethanol, this substance is known for its distinctive odor and burning taste.
In the context of alcoholic beverages, ethyl alcohol and ethanol refer to the intoxicating element. Regardless of the term used, its psychoactive effects on the human body are the same.
When used in sanitizers and medical applications, ethyl alcohol or ethanol acts as an effective antiseptic. The compound, under either name, is valued for its germicidal properties.
Ethyl alcohol, also known as ethanol, is used as a biofuel and a gasoline additive. Its application in fuel and energy sectors is significant, irrespective of the nomenclature.

Comparison Chart

Chemical Composition


Common Usage in Industry

Beverages, sanitizers, fuel
Beverages, sanitizers, fuel

Preferred Scientific Term

Often used interchangeably
More commonly used in scientific contexts

Psychoactive Effects

Causes intoxication
Causes intoxication

Role in Sanitization

Acts as an antiseptic
Acts as an antiseptic

Ethyl Alcohol and Ethanol Definitions

Ethyl Alcohol

A volatile, flammable liquid used in alcoholic beverages.
Ethyl alcohol is the active ingredient in wine and beer.


A renewable fuel made from various plant materials.
Ethanol is produced from corn in many biofuel applications.

Ethyl Alcohol

A component in antiseptics and disinfectants.
Ethyl alcohol is found in many hand sanitizers.


The type of alcohol found in alcoholic beverages.
Ethanol is responsible for the intoxicating effects of spirits.

Ethyl Alcohol

A colorless liquid with a characteristic odor.
The distinctive smell of ethyl alcohol is noticeable in distilled spirits.


A widely used laboratory solvent.
Ethanol is essential in many biochemical and molecular biology protocols.

Ethyl Alcohol

A common industrial solvent and chemical feedstock.
Ethyl alcohol is used in the manufacture of various organic chemicals.


An antiseptic ingredient in medical settings.
Ethanol is used in sterilizing equipment in hospitals.

Ethyl Alcohol

A biofuel and gasoline additive.
Ethyl alcohol is blended with gasoline to produce ethanol fuel.


A key ingredient in perfumes and personal care products.
Ethanol is added to perfumes to help disperse the fragrance.


See alcohol.


(organic compound) A simple aliphatic alcohol formally derived from ethane by replacing one hydrogen atom with a hydroxyl group: CH3-CH2-OH.


Specifically, this alcohol as a fuel.


The organic compound C2H5.OH, the common alcohol which is the intoxicating agent in beer, wine, and other fermented and distilled liquors; called also ethyl alcohol. It is used pure or denatured as a solvent or in medicines and colognes and cleaning solutions, or mixed in gasoline as a fuel for automobiles, and as a rocket fuel (as in the V-2 rocket).


The intoxicating agent in fermented and distilled liquors; used pure or denatured as a solvent or in medicines and colognes and cleaning solutions and rocket fuel; proposed as a renewable clean-burning additive to gasoline


What is the formula for ethyl alcohol/ethanol?

The formula is C2H5OH.

Is ethanol used in hand sanitizers?

Yes, ethanol is a common ingredient in hand sanitizers.

Do both have the same physical properties?

Yes, they are both colorless liquids with a characteristic odor.

Can both be used in making alcoholic beverages?

Yes, both are used in the production of alcoholic beverages.

Are ethyl alcohol and ethanol safe for consumption?

In regulated amounts, they are safe in beverages but not in concentrated forms.

What is the main use of ethyl alcohol in industry?

It's used as a solvent, in fuel, and in the manufacture of chemicals.

Are there any risks associated with ethyl alcohol/ethanol?

Yes, they can be flammable and toxic in high concentrations.

What is the role of ethyl alcohol in perfumery?

It's used as a solvent to blend and carry fragrances.

Are ethyl alcohol and ethanol the same?

Yes, ethyl alcohol and ethanol are two names for the same chemical compound.

Is ethanol a renewable resource?

Yes, ethanol can be produced from renewable plant materials.

Is ethanol effective against bacteria?

Yes, it's an effective antiseptic against many bacteria.

Does ethyl alcohol evaporate quickly?

Yes, it has a high volatility and evaporates rapidly.

How is ethanol produced commercially?

It's primarily produced through the fermentation of sugars by yeast.

Can ethyl alcohol be used as a fuel?

Yes, it's used as a biofuel and a gasoline additive.

Can both be synthesized artificially?

Yes, both can be produced through fermentation or synthetic processes.

Are there any health benefits to ethanol?

In moderate consumption in beverages, it may have some health benefits.

Can ethanol be used in cooking?

Yes, it's used in cooking, particularly in flambéing and as a flavor enhancer.

Is the use of ethyl alcohol regulated?

Yes, its use, particularly in consumable products, is regulated by health authorities.

Is ethyl alcohol used in the pharmaceutical industry?

Yes, it's used as a solvent and in the formulation of various drugs.

Is ethanol environmentally friendly?

As a biofuel, it's considered more environmentally friendly than fossil fuels.
About Author
Written by
Janet White
Janet White has been an esteemed writer and blogger for Difference Wiki. Holding a Master's degree in Science and Medical Journalism from the prestigious Boston University, she has consistently demonstrated her expertise and passion for her field. When she's not immersed in her work, Janet relishes her time exercising, delving into a good book, and cherishing moments with friends and family.
Edited by
Aimie Carlson
Aimie Carlson, holding a master's degree in English literature, is a fervent English language enthusiast. She lends her writing talents to Difference Wiki, a prominent website that specializes in comparisons, offering readers insightful analyses that both captivate and inform.

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