DNA is something everyone has heard of and is commonly known as a molecule that is in charge of genetic code. Very basically, this is what DNA is. It's a little more complicated than that though.
DNA stands for deoxyribonucleic acid (pronounced dee ahk see RIE boh noo klee ihk acid). It's definitely a good thing that it was shortened to DNA,' because deoxyribonucleic acid' is quite a mouthful. As complicated as DNA's full name seems when you first look at it, though, its name makes perfect sense when broken down.
DNA is a nucleic acid (as its long, drawn out name indicates), which is one of the four essential organic compounds, or compounds that are found in all living things (the other four are proteins, carbohydrates, and lipids). Nucleic acids, which are in charge of creating proteins, are basically long molecules that hold genetic information and are made up of smaller molecules called nucleotides. The only nucleic acid other than DNA is RNA (ribonucleic acid).
All nucleotides contain a phosphate group and a sugar molecule (which together form the backbone of the strand of the nucleic acidif DNA was a ladder, as it is often described as looking, then the sugar and phosphate group would be the poles that hold the rungs together) and one of four different bases (bases would be the rungs of the ladder). The nucleotides can be arranged in different combinations on a strand of DNA or RNA, and it is these different arrangements of nucleotides that determine the genetic information held by the strand. A specific sequence of three nucleotides together describes a certain amino acid, which is the building block of a protein. Different amino acids put together make different proteins.
DNA is known for storing hereditary information because the different combinations of its different bases tell which amino acids to use when creating a certain protein. Alone, DNA isn't much more than a protein creation database. It knows all of the facts, but it can't really do much with them. It needs the help of RNA, the other type of nucleic acid, to actually create proteins. That, though, is another story altogether.
DNA gets the other part of its name from the sugar molecule that makes up part of its backbone: deoxyribose. Both DNA and RNA have this sugar molecule, but RNA's sugar is slightly different. It is only called ribose because unlike the sugar in DNA, ribose has an extra oxygen molecule. In fact, deoxy' means less oxygen.' So, deoxyribose means sugar with less oxygen, and deoxyribonucleic acid is a nucleic acid with a sugar molecule with less oxygen. So, DNA's full name almost defines itself. If only it was easier to say.