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.

  • 11
    Tacky / sticky / adhesive? – Dan Bron Nov 16 '14 at 23:29
  • 21
    rubbery – pazzo Nov 17 '14 at 0:12
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    Rubbery would have been a valid answer if my question were 'Oil is oily...'. – EmmaV Nov 17 '14 at 0:31
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    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. – John Lawler Nov 17 '14 at 0:34
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    Oil is slippery; rubber is ... not? – Beta Nov 17 '14 at 3:52

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.

  • 24
    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 '14 at 1:51
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    It's a word, but a rather colloquial one, to my ear. – WinnieNicklaus Nov 18 '14 at 0:17
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    So, as opposed to the rhetorical 'slippery' slope, we're dealing with a grippery slope? : ) – Ideogram Nov 18 '14 at 11:03
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    @Ideogram As far as I know, grippery is not a commonly recognized word. – 200_success Nov 18 '14 at 11:05
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    I still vote for tacky over grippy. Grippy is not as gripping as tacky... – McGafter Nov 18 '14 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 '14 at 0:37
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    @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 '14 at 0:43
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    My skid-resistant pencil eraser...? – EmmaV Nov 17 '14 at 0:43
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    My eraser has six surfaces! – EmmaV Nov 17 '14 at 0:56
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    "non-slip" is also an option – Max Nov 17 '14 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 '14 at 14:13
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    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. – nothingisnecessary Nov 18 '14 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 '14 at 0:29
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    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 '14 at 1:35
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    @JoeZ. Both frictive and frictional are used in physics. Frictive is just less used than frictional – Jim Nov 17 '14 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. – Duane T. Bentz Nov 19 '14 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 '14 at 0:50
  • A solid can have resistance to shear, and that behaves the same way as viscosity. – Sean Nov 17 '14 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). – Spehro Pefhany Nov 17 '14 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. – SevenSidedDie Nov 18 '14 at 5:01
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    @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. – Jeffrey Hantin Nov 18 '14 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 '17 at 13:57

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