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Difference Between Atom And Molecule

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Look around you, everything you can lay your eyes on is made of matter. Even those you cannot see with your naked eyes are classified as matter because they have mass and can take up space. When a matter is broken down to its foundations, you will discover the smallest particle in it.

In this post, we will discuss the difference between atom and molecule, which are otherwise known as the smallest constituent unit of a matter. You will be presented with their definitions, how they are different or similar to each other, and a table showing the comprehensive relationship between the two terms.

Definition Of Atom

An atom is the most fundamental unit of a compound which constitutes the most defining structure of a matter. According to scientists, there is no other particle of a substance smaller and simpler than its fundamental unit. This is not surprising seeing that the term has a Greek origin and is translated to “indivisible”.


There are three distinct parts of an atom. They are as follows.

  • Protons defined as stable particles with a positive charge
  • Neutrons, known as sub-particles without electric charge
  • Electrons a sub particle with a negative charge known as the primary carrier of electricity

Note that the protons and neutron make up the nucleus.


For a better understanding of the difference between molecule and atom, you will need to remember the properties, which include:

  • Atomic number
  • Atomic mass
  • Relative atomic mass
  • Radioactivity
  • Electric charge
  • Spin of electrons

Definition Of Molecule

A molecule is defined as a group of atoms bonded together to represent the minutest fundamental unit of a compound that can take part in a chemical reaction. Atoms may be the smallest unit ever of a particular substance, but they cannot maintain a stable state on their own in most cases. Bonding with others of the same element helps them maintain a level of stability that allows them to react chemically.

There are three different kinds, they include:

  • Mixture molecule
  • Compound molecule
  • Element molecule

Just the same way atoms of the same element have to come together to form a molecule, molecules also have to come together to form a compound. There are a lot of molecule examples, some of which are:

  • Water – H20
  • Table salt – NaCl
  • Nitrogen – N2
  • Glucose – C6H12O6
  • Calcium oxide – CaO
  • Ozone – 03

One of the ways you can answer the question – what is the difference between atoms and molecules? – is by pointing out the fact that nuclear bonding is required in the former, unlike in the latter where covalent bonding is necessary to keep the components together in a stable state (or unstable is some cases).

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Basis Of Comparison Atom Molecule


The most fundamental unit of a compound which constitute of the most defining structure or a matter. Defined as a group of atoms bonded together to represent the minutest fundamental unit of a compound that can take part in a chemical reaction


The simplest particles that exhibit the properties of an element Made of more than one atom


May or may not maintain stability in a free state Can exist in a free state


Nucleus and electrons More than one atom bonded together by a covalent bond


Cannot be seen or observed with the naked eyes or any known magnifying instrument Can only be seen with the help of a magnifying microscope

Type of bonding Nuclear Covalent

Rate of reactivity Highly reactive in compatible conditions Not as reactive

This table pretty much sums up the basic things you need to understand what’s the difference between molecule and atom at a very basic level. There is so much more to be revealed about this topic, but this should do for a comprehensive introduction.


It can be said that these two terms are interrelated, but it would be strange to use them as they have the same meaning. In comparison, the definition, components, structures, and properties of these substances vary from one another. Atom vs molecule comparison exposes how the sizes and rate of reactivity of these two substances can be different.

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Difference Between Atom And Molecule. (2022, February 27). Edubirdie. Retrieved February 2, 2023, from
“Difference Between Atom And Molecule.” Edubirdie, 27 Feb. 2022,
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