What's the best word (or words) to describe rubber's 'gripping' property that is the opposite of oil's slipperiness?

It's not 'rough', since rubber grips without necessarily being rough.

  • 12
    Tacky / sticky / adhesive?
    – Dan Bron
    Nov 16, 2014 at 23:29
  • 22
    – pazzo
    Nov 17, 2014 at 0:12
  • 22
    Rubbery would have been a valid answer if my question were 'Oil is oily...'.
    – EmmaV
    Nov 17, 2014 at 0:31
  • 6
    Certainly that would be a perfect analogue; but rubbery is the only common English word that refers to (some of) the properties of rubber. As for grippiness, that has to do with how the rubber's been processed; some are slippery, some are sticky. Nov 17, 2014 at 0:34
  • 10
    Oil is slippery; rubber is ... not?
    – Beta
    Nov 17, 2014 at 3:52

8 Answers 8


The "obvious" answer is grippy — the ability to grip a surface well. It is less commonly used than slippery, but it is a proper word.

  • 25
    It is indeed a proper word. I originally thought not because it's not in my big dictionary. My dictionary's obviously not big enough.
    – EmmaV
    Nov 17, 2014 at 1:51
  • 6
    It's a word, but a rather colloquial one, to my ear. Nov 18, 2014 at 0:17
  • 4
    So, as opposed to the rhetorical 'slippery' slope, we're dealing with a grippery slope? : )
    – Ideogram
    Nov 18, 2014 at 11:03
  • 2
    @Ideogram As far as I know, grippery is not a commonly recognized word. Nov 18, 2014 at 11:05
  • 2
    I still vote for tacky over grippy. Grippy is not as gripping as tacky...
    – McGafter
    Nov 18, 2014 at 12:04

As has been mentioned in comments, "sticky"or "adhesive" might fit. But the truth is rubber isn't naturally sticky or adhesive. It does have a high "coefficient of friction" though. That's why it isn't slippery. In non-technical terms, we can say rubber is nonslippery or skid-resistant.

  • 3
    Nonslippery sounds a bit cumbersome. Like describing a wet cloth as nondry.
    – EmmaV
    Nov 17, 2014 at 0:37
  • 1
    @EmmaV Not exactly the same. We have the word "wet" as the opposite for "dry", but there isn't (or at least I couldn't find) a less cumbersome opposite for slippery than nonslippery.
    – Centaurus
    Nov 17, 2014 at 0:43
  • 2
    My skid-resistant pencil eraser...?
    – EmmaV
    Nov 17, 2014 at 0:43
  • 4
    My eraser has six surfaces!
    – EmmaV
    Nov 17, 2014 at 0:56
  • 2
    "non-slip" is also an option
    – Max
    Nov 17, 2014 at 15:33

The word tacky is used when describing the 'grippiness' of golf grips (which are, as it happens, made of rubber), especially when it comes to the 'stickiness' of the rubber compound, as opposed to the roughness of the surface.

  • It seems that the term is used widely in the rubber industry. link link
    – Fingolfin
    Nov 18, 2014 at 14:13
  • 1
    Tacky is the best fit. Funny that this "answer" with Tacky only got 3 upvotes, but the first comment on the question used "tacky" and got 9. Nov 18, 2014 at 23:01

The word slippery implies very little friction. You want a word that implies a lot of friction, which creates a "gripping" sensation.

To that effect, I couldn't find any simple, commonly used words. Frictive is one, which literally means "friction-y". CarSmack suggested "rubbery", but "rubber is rubbery" seems redundant.

  • 2
    Are frictive, frictional and frictious proper words? They seem not to be found anywhere other than wiktionary.org.
    – EmmaV
    Nov 17, 2014 at 0:29
  • 3
    Frictional is definitely a word (it's used in physics, e.g. a frictional force); frictive I've never heard before either.
    – Joe Z.
    Nov 17, 2014 at 1:35
  • 2
    @JoeZ. Both frictive and frictional are used in physics. Frictive is just less used than frictional
    – Jim
    Nov 17, 2014 at 15:55
  • @JoeZ.- I like your answer. Seems to be much more original and descriptive than the other answers I have read. Certainly worthy of a higher score and so I add my own. Nov 19, 2014 at 14:06

Comments thusfar (including the OP's) seem to confuse friction with rheology. A slippery substance is one with low viscosity, not a low coefficient of friction. A coating of oil makes surfaces slippery because the oil deforms easily and permanently under small shear (i.e., sliding) stress. Rubber deforms only slightly, then returns to its original shape, so a rubber coating does not makes surfaces slippery. At the molecular level, both rubber and oil cling to many types of surfaces on contact, but the difference in slipperiness has to do with the way that the two substances flow.

You can say that oil is plastic (deforms permanently), while rubber is elastic (restores to original shape). Alternately you can say that rubber is viscous (deforms only slightly), while oil is slippery (shears easily). A less technical term for rubber would be skid- or slip-resistant.

  • 2
    I was refering to friction. I don't think viscosity and plasticity are relevant. Can a solid have viscosity?
    – EmmaV
    Nov 17, 2014 at 0:50
  • A solid can have resistance to shear, and that behaves the same way as viscosity.
    – Sean
    Nov 17, 2014 at 3:10
  • Elastic materials like rubbers or thermoplastic elastomers are characterized by their durometer, which is a measure of hardness (as measured by the amount of penetration into the surface of a given probe with a given force). Nov 17, 2014 at 3:52
  • We have words to describe opposite subjective sensations for many things; these words need not have any, let alone a 1:1, relationship to the words that describe the underlying physical processes. Compare "hot" and "cold": the words that describe what's really going on in the underlying physics have zero relevance to the subjective sensations we use "hot" and "cold" to describe. Ditto with oil and slipperiness: the language describes "lay" experience, which predates and has zero concern for the "real" situation at the molecular level. Nov 18, 2014 at 5:01
  • 3
    @LieRyan To try to clear up that confusion: 'plastic' has multiple, albeit related, senses salient to this context: as an adjective for a permanently deformable substance and as a noun for a formable polymer. Thus, 'oil is plastic' and 'rubber is plastic' are both true statements — for differing senses of 'plastic'. The use of petroleum as a feedstock for polymer production just compounds the confusion. Nov 18, 2014 at 22:47

Unslippery is certainly a possibility, but I don't like it.

Commercial products such as deck paints tend to use terms such as "non-slip" and "slip-resistant".


The first word that comes to mind without trying too hard is chafing. Perhaps you could also try abrasive. While they are not perfect matches for rubber to describe the equivalent of slippery to oil, it is a close match.


Rubber is 'tacky'. I like the word tacky. It's kind of tacky like blue tack or the soles of your 'tekkies' (slang word for running shoes in Afrikaans)...

  • 'tacky' is more like 'sticky'. and rubber is not 'sticky'
    – Mitch
    Dec 20, 2017 at 13:57

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