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Particle vs. Molecule: Know the Difference

Shumaila Saeed
By Shumaila Saeed || Updated on December 25, 2023
A particle is a small piece of matter, while a molecule is a group of atoms bonded together.
Particle vs. Molecule

Key Differences

A particle represents a small piece of matter, which can be an atom, a molecule, or another physical unit. In contrast, a molecule specifically refers to a group of atoms bonded together, representing the smallest fundamental unit of a chemical compound that can take part in a chemical reaction.
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While particles can exist independently or as part of larger structures, molecules are always composed of two or more atoms bonded together. This difference highlights that all molecules are particles, but not all particles are molecules.
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The study of particles often encompasses a broad range of physical phenomena, including subatomic particles like electrons and protons. Molecules, on the other hand, are studied in the context of chemistry, focusing on the ways atoms bond and interact.
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Particles can be charged, like ions, or neutral, like neutrons. Molecules are typically neutral, but they can become ions if they gain or lose electrons.
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In terms of size, particles can vary widely, from subatomic particles to larger particles like pollen grains. Molecules, however, are typically at the nanometer scale, with their size determined by the number and type of atoms they contain.
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Comparison Chart

Definition

A small unit of matter
A group of atoms bonded together
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Composition

Can be single atoms, molecules, or other units
Always consists of two or more atoms
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Study Field

Physics and Chemistry
Primarily Chemistry
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Charge

Can be charged or neutral
Usually neutral, but can form ions
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Size Range

Varies widely
Nanometer scale
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Particle and Molecule Definitions

Particle

A small piece of matter.
Dust particles are visible in the sunlight.
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Molecule

A tiny mass in chemistry.
A molecule of DNA carries genetic information.
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Particle

A minor detail.
She didn’t leave a particle of evidence behind.
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Molecule

A group of atoms bonded together.
A water molecule consists of two hydrogen atoms and one oxygen atom.
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Particle

A subatomic component.
Electrons are particles found in atoms.
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Molecule

A particle consisting of two or more atoms.
Oxygen molecules in the air are essential for breathing.
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Particle

A grammatical unit smaller than a word.
Not in cannot is a particle.
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Molecule

A chemical structure that has a specific chemical formula.
The molecule of caffeine energizes many people in the morning.
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Particle

A very small piece or part; a tiny portion or speck.
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Molecule

The smallest particle of a substance that retains the chemical and physical properties of the substance and is composed of two or more atoms; a group of like or different atoms held together by chemical forces.
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Particle

A very small or the smallest possible amount, trace, or degree
Not a particle of doubt.
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Molecule

A small particle; a tiny bit.
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Particle

A body whose spatial extent and internal motion and structure, if any, are irrelevant in a specific problem.
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Molecule

(chemistry) The smallest particle of a specific element or compound that retains the chemical properties of that element or compound; two or more atoms held together by chemical bonds.
Hydrogen chloride is a diatomic molecule, consisting of a hydrogen atom and a chlorine atom.
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Particle

See elementary particle.
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Molecule

A tiny amount.
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Particle

See subatomic particle.
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Molecule

One of the very small invisible particles of which all ordinary matter is supposed to consist.
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Particle

An uninflected item that has grammatical function but does not clearly belong to one of the major parts of speech, such as up in He looked up the word or to in English infinitives.
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Molecule

The smallest part of any substance which possesses the characteristic properties and qualities of that substance, and which can exist alone in a free state.
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Particle

In some systems of grammatical analysis, any of various short function words, including articles, prepositions, and conjunctions.
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Molecule

A group of atoms so united and combined by chemical affinity that they form a complete, integrated whole, being the smallest portion of any particular compound that can exist in a free state; as, a molecule of water consists of two atoms of hydrogen and one of oxygen. Cf. Atom.
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Particle

(Ecclesiastical) A portion or fragment of the Eucharistic host.
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Molecule

(physics and chemistry) the simplest structural unit of an element or compound
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Particle

(Archaic) A small part of something written, such as a clause of a document.
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Molecule

(nontechnical usage) a tiny piece of anything
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Particle

A very small piece of matter, a fragment; especially, the smallest possible part of something.
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Molecule

The smallest unit of a chemical compound.
A molecule of salt is formed from sodium and chlorine.
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Particle

(physics) Any of various physical objects making up the constituent parts of an atom; an elementary particle or subatomic particle.
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Particle

(linguistics) A part of speech that has no inherent lexical definition but must be associated with another word to impart meaning, often a grammatical category: for example, the English word to in a full infinitive phrase (to eat) or O in a vocative phrase (O Canada), or as a discourse marker (mmm).
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Particle

(linguistics) A part of speech which cannot be inflected.
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Particle

(Christianity) In the Roman Catholic church, a crumb of consecrated bread; also the smaller breads used in the communion of the laity.
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Particle

A little bit.
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Particle

A minute part or portion of matter; a morsel; a little bit; an atom; a jot; as, a particle of sand, of wood, of dust.
The small size of atoms which uniteTo make the smallest particle of light.
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Particle

Any very small portion or part; the smallest portion; as, he has not a particle of patriotism or virtue.
The houses had not given their commissioners authority in the least particle to recede.
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Particle

A crumb or little piece of consecrated host.
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Particle

A subordinate word that is never inflected (a preposition, conjunction, interjection); or a word that can not be used except in compositions; as, ward in backward, ly in lovely.
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Particle

An elementary particle.
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Particle

(nontechnical usage) a tiny piece of anything
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Particle

A body having finite mass and internal structure but negligible dimensions
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Particle

A function word that can be used in English to form phrasal verbs
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Particle

A minute portion of matter.
The particle of sand stuck to my skin.
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Repeatedly Asked Queries

What determines the size of a molecule?

The size of a molecule is determined by the number and type of atoms it contains.
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Can particles exist independently?

Yes, particles can exist independently, like single atoms or ions.
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What is a particle in physics?

In physics, a particle is a small localized object to which can be ascribed several physical properties such as volume or mass.
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How is a molecule different from an atom?

A molecule is made up of two or more atoms bonded together, whereas an atom is the basic unit of a chemical element.
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Are all particles visible to the naked eye?

No, many particles, especially at the atomic or molecular level, are too small to be seen without magnification.
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Can a molecule be a compound?

Yes, a molecule can be a compound if it is made up of different elements. For example, carbon dioxide (CO2) is a molecular compound.
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What’s the difference between molecular and atomic particles?

Atomic particles refer to individual atoms or subatomic particles, whereas molecular particles refer to groups of atoms bonded together to form molecules.
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What is the role of particles in chemistry?

In chemistry, particles such as atoms and molecules are the building blocks of matter.
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Are ions considered particles?

Yes, ions, which are atoms or molecules with a net electric charge, are considered particles.
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What is a real-life example of a molecule?

Water (H2O) is a common example of a molecule.
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Can a molecule be charged?

Yes, molecules can become ions and thus be charged by gaining or losing electrons.
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Are particles always stable?

Not all particles are stable. Some, especially in the subatomic realm, can be very unstable and prone to change or decay.
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Is a virus considered a particle or a molecule?

A virus is considered a particle, as it is a complex structure much larger than a molecule.
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Can molecules exist in different states of matter?

Yes, molecules can exist in all states of matter – solid, liquid, and gas, depending on their composition and environmental conditions.
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How do particles behave?

The behavior of particles varies widely depending on their type, size, and the forces acting upon them. For example, subatomic particles follow the principles of quantum mechanics.
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What is the significance of molecules in biology?

In biology, molecules are crucial as they form the basis of cells and are responsible for various biological processes, like DNA for genetics and proteins for bodily functions.
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Is a molecule the same as a chemical?

A molecule is a specific structure of atoms, while a chemical is a broader term that can refer to any substance with a distinct molecular composition.
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Are all molecules organic?

No, molecules can be organic (containing carbon) or inorganic (not containing carbon).
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Is water a particle or a molecule?

Water (H2O) is a molecule composed of two hydrogen atoms and one oxygen atom bonded together.
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Can particles change form?

Yes, particles can change form, especially in high-energy physics contexts, where particles can transform, decay, or combine.
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What role do molecules play in chemistry?

In chemistry, molecules are fundamental as they make up chemical substances and participate in chemical reactions, determining the properties and behaviors of different materials.
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Shumaila Saeed
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Shumaila Saeed
Shumaila Saeed, an expert content creator with 6 years of experience, specializes in distilling complex topics into easily digestible comparisons, shining a light on the nuances that both inform and educate readers with clarity and accuracy.

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