What's the difference between these terms?


: tending or liable to cause slipping or sliding, as ice, oil, or a wet surface: a slippery road. Random House Kennerman Webster's College Dictionary


: smooth, glossy, and slippery: sidewalks slick with ice. AHD

: (US and Canadian) smooth and glossy; slippery. CED


Ngram slick w/ ice vs. slippery w/ ice

  • From the definitions provided it seems that slick refers to the object's appearance ("smooth, glossy") whereas slippery does not.
    – user116295
    Dec 30, 2015 at 20:13

1 Answer 1


To this Minnesotan in the middle of winter, pretty much what it says.

A "slick" surface is smooth, and will tend to be slippery (though a slick smooth floor is not slippery to rubber-soled shoes, for example). Ice is usually, but not always, "slick".

A "slippery" surface is one which is apt to result in slipping (and possibly falling, if walking across it). The slipperiness could be due to ice, oil, loose gravel, etc.

(Though admittedly the terms are often interchanged with little regard, especially by radio announcers looking for a different way to describe road conditions.)

  • Good answer. Smooth versus apt to result in slipping. (And a slick surface is often slippery too.)
    – Drew
    Dec 31, 2015 at 7:57

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