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Monomer vs. Polymer — What's the Difference?

Edited by Tayyaba Rehman — By Fiza Rafique — Updated on September 24, 2023
A monomer is a small molecule that can chemically bond to form a larger structure called a polymer. A polymer is a complex molecule composed of multiple monomers linked together.
Monomer vs. Polymer — What's the Difference?

Difference Between Monomer and Polymer


Key Differences

A monomer is essentially a single, small molecular unit that can be combined with others to form a larger, more complex structure. This smaller molecule is the basic building block for a polymer. Monomers often contain a reactive group that allows them to form covalent bonds with other monomers.
In contrast, a polymer is a much larger molecule that results from the bonding of multiple monomers. Polymers can consist of thousands or even millions of monomers linked together. They exhibit properties that are different from those of their constituent monomers and can be both naturally occurring or synthetically made.
While monomers act as the precursors or the raw materials, polymers represent the end product of polymerization processes. Monomers join together in specific sequences and structures to form polymers. The process by which this happens is known as polymerization, and it can occur through various methods such as addition polymerization or condensation polymerization.
In summary, a monomer is like a single piece of a puzzle, while a polymer is the completed puzzle. The monomers can be identical or different, but they are always smaller than the resulting polymer. Each monomer contributes to the properties and functionality of the resulting polymer.

Comparison Chart


Small molecular unit
Large complex molecule




Building block
End product



Chemical Process

Precursor in polymerization
Result of polymerization

Compare with Definitions


The precursor molecule in a polymerization process.
The monomer styrene is essential for producing polystyrene.


The product formed by the chemical bonding of monomers.
Polyethylene is a polymer made from ethene.


A compound that can undergo polymerization.
Acrylonitrile is a monomer used in making certain synthetic fibers.


A compound with high molecular weight comprising repeated linked units.
Polystyrene is a polymer used in plastic products.


A molecule with reactive groups for forming covalent bonds.
The amino acid monomer contributes to protein structure.


A substance consisting of molecular chains.
Natural rubber is a polymer of isoprene.


A small molecular unit capable of bonding with others to form a polymer.
Ethene is a monomer used to make polyethylene.


A large, complex molecule made up of smaller units called monomers.
DNA is a natural polymer.


A single unit that serves as a building block for larger structures.
Glucose is a monomer for starch and cellulose.


A polymer (; Greek poly-, "many" + -mer, "part") is a substance or material consisting of very large molecules, or macromolecules, composed of many repeating subunits. Due to their broad spectrum of properties, both synthetic and natural polymers play essential and ubiquitous roles in everyday life.


A monomer ( MON-ə-mər; mono-, "one" + -mer, "part") is a molecule that can react together with other monomer molecules to form a larger polymer chain or three-dimensional network in a process called polymerization.


Any of numerous natural and synthetic compounds of usually high molecular weight consisting of up to millions of repeated linked units, each a relatively light and simple molecule.


A molecule that can be bonded to other identical molecules to form a polymer.


(organic chemistry) A long or larger molecule consisting of a chain or network of many repeating units, formed by chemically bonding together many identical or similar small molecules called monomers. A polymer is formed by polymerization, the joining of many monomer molecules.


A molecule that can combine with other molecules to form a polymer.


A material consisting of such polymer molecules.


(chemistry) A relatively small molecule which can be covalently bonded to other monomers to form a polymer.


Any one of two or more substances related to each other by polymerism; specifically, a substance produced from another substance by chemical polymerization.


The basic conceptual building unit of a polymer; a molecule of low molecular weight which may combine with other molecules to form a molecule in a chain or branched form having high molecular weight; as, amino acids are the monomer units which are combined to form proteins; vinylic plastics are formed from monomers having a vinyl group.


A naturally occurring or synthetic compound consisting of large molecules made up of a linked series of repeated simple monomers


A simple compound whose molecules can join together to form polymers


A macromolecule formed from similar or different subunits.
Proteins are polymers made up of amino acids.

Common Curiosities

How do monomers become polymers?

Through a process called polymerization.

Are monomers always smaller than polymers?

Yes, monomers are the building blocks of polymers.

Can monomers be different in a single polymer?

Yes, they can be identical or different.

Can polymers be recycled?

Some polymers can be recycled.

What is a monomer?

A monomer is a small molecule that can bond to form a polymer.

Can a polymer be broken down into its monomers?

Yes, through a process called depolymerization.

What is the role of monomers in polymerization?

They act as the precursors or building blocks.

What is a polymer?

A polymer is a large molecule composed of multiple monomers.

Are all polymers synthetic?

No, there are both natural and synthetic polymers.

Can polymers occur naturally?

Yes, examples include DNA and proteins.

Are all monomers organic compounds?

Most are, but there are inorganic monomers too.

How are polymers used in daily life?

They are used in plastics, textiles, medicines, and more.

What are the reactive groups in monomers called?

They are often called functional groups.

Do polymers have higher molecular weights than monomers?

Yes, polymers have higher molecular weights.

What is a copolymer?

A polymer made from two or more different types of monomers.

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Author Spotlight

Written by
Fiza Rafique
Fiza Rafique is a skilled content writer at, where she meticulously refines and enhances written pieces. Drawing from her vast editorial expertise, Fiza ensures clarity, accuracy, and precision in every article. Passionate about language, she continually seeks to elevate the quality of content for readers worldwide.
Tayyaba Rehman is a distinguished writer, currently serving as a primary contributor to As a researcher in semantics and etymology, Tayyaba's passion for the complexity of languages and their distinctions has found a perfect home on the platform. Tayyaba delves into the intricacies of language, distinguishing between commonly confused words and phrases, thereby providing clarity for readers worldwide.

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