The common names of carboxylic acids are based on their source of origin. Formic acid was first obtained from red ants (Latin formica means red ants) and it was named from that. Acetic acid was obtained from vinegar (Latin aceum means vinegar) and so got that name.
In the common system the position of substituents is indicated by the Greek letters α, β, γ, ō.
α, β, γ, ō Carbon atoms
The carbon atom next to the carboxyl carbon is assigned the letter α. The carbon next to α-carbon is the β-carbon. The carbon next to β-carbon is the γ-carbon. The carbon next to γ-carbon is the ō Carbon.
According to IUPAC system, the name of the monocarboxylic acid is derived by changing the final 'e' from the name of the corresponding hydrocarbon with 'oic' and adding the word acid.
Formic acid - Methanoic acid
Acetic acid - Ethanoic acid
n-Butyric acid - Butanoic acid
Isobutyric acid - 2-Mehtylpropanoic acid
Oxalic acid - Ethanedioic acid
Malonic acid - Propanedioic acid
The position of substituents is indicated by the following rules.
1. The longest chain of carbon atoms containing the carboxylic group(-COOH) is selected.
2. The numbering of carbons starts from the carboxylic acid group and the carbon of carboxyl group is given number 1.
3. The position of the substituents is indicated by the number of carbon atom to which they are attached.
Aromatic carboxylic acids
The simplest aromatic carboxylic acid is benzoic acid.
The IUPAC names of substituted aromatic carboxylic acids are derived by prefixing the name of the substituent to the name of the parent acid i.e., benzoic acid and the position is indicated by an Arabic numeral with the carbon atom carrying the –COOH group being numbered as 1.