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Viscosity is a measure of the resistance of a fluid which is being deformed by either shear stress or extensional stress. In everyday terms (and for fluids only), viscosity is "thickness". Thus, water is "thin", having a lower viscosity, while honey is "thick", having a higher viscosity. Viscosity describes a fluid's internal resistance to flow and may be thought of as a measure of fluid friction. For example, high-viscosity magma will create a tall, steep stratovolcano, because it cannot flow far before it cools, while low-viscosity lava will create a wide, shallow-sloped shield volcano. Put simply, the less viscous something is, the greater its ease of movement (fluidity). [1] All real fluids (except superfluids) have some resistance to stress, but a fluid which has no resistance to shear stress is known as an ideal fluid or inviscid fluid. The study of viscosity is known as rheology.


The word "viscosity" derives from the Latin word "viscum" for mistletoe. A viscous glue was made from mistletoe berries and used for lime-twigs to catch birds.[2]


  1. Symon, Keith (1971). Mechanics (Third ed.). Addison-Wesley. ISBN 0-201-07392-7.
  2. The Online Etymology Dictionary

Additional reading

  • Massey, B. S. (1983). Mechanics of Fluids (Fifth ed.). Van Nostrand Reinhold (UK). ISBN 0-442-30552-4.

External links