The Empirical formula of a compound may be defined as the formula which gives the simplest whole number ratio of atoms of the various elements present in the molecule of the compound.

Empirical formulas are also called simple formulas. The formulas of all ionic compounds are empirical formulas. Since ionic compounds do not exist as molecules, their formulas are not molecular formulas.

Empirical formulas are also called simple formulas. The formulas of all ionic compounds are empirical formulas. Since ionic compounds do not exist as molecules, their formulas are not molecular formulas.

For example the empirical formula of the compound glucose
(C_{6}H_{12}O_{6}) is CH_{2}O which shows that C, H and O are present in the simplest ratio of 1:2:1.

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It is relatively simple to determine the empirical formula of a compound from the atomic and combining weights of elements in the compound. The empirical formula gives the relative number of atoms that is the formula weight is calculated from the empirical formula.

- Divide the gravimetric fractions by the atomic weight of each respective element.
- Determine the smallest ratio from step 1.
- Divide all of the ratios from step 1 by the smallest ratio.
- Write the chemical formula using the results from step 3 as the numbers of atoms. Multiply through as required to obtain all integer numbers of atoms.

The molecular formula of a compound is a multiple of its empirical formula.

$n = \frac{Molecular\ Weight}{Empirical\ formula\ Weight}$