(Z)-Stilbene is a diarylethene, that is, a hydrocarbon consisting of a cis ethene double bond substituted with a phenyl group on both carbon atoms of the double bond. The name stilbene was derived from the Greek word stilbos, which means shining.
Stilbene exists as two possible isomers known as (E)-stilbene and (Z)-stilbene. (Z)-Stilbene is sterically hindered and less stable because the steric interactions force the aromatic rings out-of-plane and prevent conjugation. (Z)-Stilbene has a melting point of 5–6 °C (41–43 °F), while (E)-stilbene melts around 125 °C (257 °F), illustrating that the two compounds are quite different.
Many stilbene derivatives (stilbenoids) are present naturally in plants. An example is resveratrol and its cousin, pterostilbene.