Tocopherols are a class of chemical compounds of which many have vitamin E
Vitamin E
Vitamin E is used to refer to a group of fat-soluble compounds that include both tocopherols and tocotrienols. There are many different forms of vitamin E, of which γ-tocopherol is the most common in the North American diet. γ-Tocopherol can be found in corn oil, soybean oil, margarine and dressings...

 activity. It is a series of organic compound
Organic compound
An organic compound is any member of a large class of gaseous, liquid, or solid chemical compounds whose molecules contain carbon. For historical reasons discussed below, a few types of carbon-containing compounds such as carbides, carbonates, simple oxides of carbon, and cyanides, as well as the...

s consisting of various methylated phenol
Phenol, also known as carbolic acid, phenic acid, is an organic compound with the chemical formula C6H5OH. It is a white crystalline solid. The molecule consists of a phenyl , bonded to a hydroxyl group. It is produced on a large scale as a precursor to many materials and useful compounds...

s. Because the vitamin activity was first identified in 1936 from a dietary fertility factor in rats, it was given the name "tocopherol" from the Greek words “τόκος” [birth], and “φέρειν”, [to bear or carry] meaning in sum "to carry a pregnancy," with the ending "-ol" signifying its status as a chemical alcohol.

alpha-Tocopherol is the main source found in supplements and in the European diet, while gamma-tocopherol is the most common form in the American diet.