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Is hydrolysis exothermic or endothermic?
It depends on the particular reaction.
Two points to remember:
- Breaking of bonds is always endothermic.
- Formation of bonds is always exothermic.
Consider the hydrolysis of an ester:
##"RCOOR"_1 + "HOH" → "RCOOH" + "R"_1"OH"##
We could consider this simplistically as the breaking of two old bonds and the formation of two new bonds.
##underbrace("RCO-OR"_1)_color(red)("break C-O bond") + underbrace("H-OH")_color(red)("break O-H bond") → underbrace("RCO-OH")_color(red)("form new C-O bond") + underbrace("R"_1"O-H")_color(red)("form new O-H bond")##
The energy terms for breaking and forming the ##"C-O"## and ##"O-H"## bonds will be similar but not identical
Probably of more importance are the relative stabilities of the products and the reactants.
If a product is much more stable than a reactant because of resonance, inductive, steric, or solvation effects, the hydrolysis will almost certainly be exothermic.