Ionic bonding is a kind of chemical bonding that arises from the mutual attraction of oppositely charged ions. Since ions of like charge repel each other, they do not usually exist on their own. Instead, many of them may form a crystal lattice, in which ions of opposite charge are bound to each other. The resulting compound is called an ionic compound, and is said to be held together by ionic bonding. In ionic compounds there arise characteristic distances between ion neighbors from which the spatial extension and the ionic radius of individual ions may be derived.
The most common type of ionic bonding is seen in compounds of metals and nonmetals (except noble gases, which rarely form chemical compounds). Metals are characterized by having a small number of electrons in excess of a stable, closed-shell electronic configuration. As such, they have the tendency to lose these extra electrons in order to attain a stable configuration. This property is known as electropositivity. Non-metals, on the other hand, are characterized by having an electron configuration just a few electrons short of a stable configuration. As such, they have the tendency to gain more electrons in order to achieve a stable configuration. This tendency is known as electronegativity. When a highly electropositive metal is combined with a highly electronegative nonmetal, the extra electrons from the metal atoms are transferred to the electron-deficient nonmetal atoms. This reaction produces metal cations and nonmetal anions, which are attracted to each other to form a salt.