Definition of slippery in English:



  • 1(of a surface or object) difficult to hold firmly or stand on because it is smooth, wet, or slimy.

    ‘slippery ice’
    ‘her hand was slippery with sweat’
    • ‘Poor weather conditions and an extremely slippery surface greatly hindered the playing of good football.’
    • ‘On slippery surfaces, a very smooth traction and skid control system will cut in to ensure that things never get out of hand.’
    • ‘All that torque causes some problems on slippery surfaces.’
    • ‘On slippery surfaces, the car takes over and automatically controls steering torque to prevent a spin-out.’
    • ‘My tennis shoes slipped over the slippery surface of the rock.’
    • ‘It creaked beneath his feet and he ignored the slippery surface.’
    • ‘As it was, the two sides struggled to adapt to the slippery surface and the game progressed, strewn with errors.’
    • ‘It's unwise to charge up a hill at full speed but conserving momentum is crucial to avoid getting caught out by the slippery surface.’
    • ‘The match, which was put into severe doubt the previous day with a covering of snow and slush on the pitch, inevitably turned out to be quite scrappy due to the slippery surface.’
    • ‘The trapped bees try to escape from the flowers by climbing the sepals, but escape is made even more difficult by the slippery waxy sepal surface.’
    • ‘Its purpose is to provide a smooth, almost slippery, surface for later burnishing, but the red and yellow boles also enrich the colour of the gilding.’
    • ‘There are also gearbox modes for slippery surfaces or for faster gear changes.’
    • ‘A heavy shower before the game made for a slippery surface and much sliding and difficulty in gaining possession.’
    • ‘Loss of balance on a slippery surface, especially ice or snow, is also common.’
    • ‘But it was still difficult for the cars to stop on slippery surfaces when something unexpected occurred.’
    • ‘Mr Clayton claimed that too little sand was used in the resin compound, so instead of giving extra grip, the surface became smooth and slippery.’
    • ‘These are for general driving and slippery surfaces on-road, plus three off road settings: mud, sand and rocks.’
    • ‘Part of the work involved the application of a plastic lining which subsequently proved to be a safety risk due to its slippery surface.’
    • ‘Again McLean was involved when he latched on to Andy Smith's misplaced header and sent in a vicious shot which skidded goalward off the slippery surface.’
    • ‘Wear low-heeled shoes with non-slip soles and check your house for slippery surfaces that might cause you to trip or fall.’
    slithery, greasy, oily, icy, glassy, smooth, slick
    View synonyms
    1. 1.1 (of a person) evasive and unpredictable; not to be relied on.
      ‘Martin's a slippery customer’
      • ‘They are a bunch of desperate slippery folks, and re-election and banishment is coming upon them soon.’
      • ‘But you are still slippery when it comes to actually fixing that date to meet up.’
      • ‘He's being a slippery character who fails to show any sign of remorse or even responsibility for his work.’
      • ‘Jolly and devious, she is an appealingly slippery figure.’
      • ‘The Right will see how political spin and slippery personalities can sell questionable character to the voters.’
      • ‘He's a slippery character whose public statements remind you of certain other politicians.’
      • ‘A policeman has told how he bravely apprehended a slippery customer.’
      • ‘These days it's impossible to avoid the plethora of slippery politicians all over our TV screens, PC monitors and radio airwaves.’
      • ‘Only a fool would claim otherwise - a fool, or a slippery lawyer.’
      • ‘And a nice change from forceful journalists shouting at slippery politicians.’
      • ‘Having interrogated endless politicians, business leaders and other slippery characters, he knows exactly how to keep control.’
      • ‘No slippery politician was going to give me the kind of straight talk I was looking for, but only politicians and platitudes were on offer.’
      • ‘Then Richard had become an asset, someone she wanted to be able to move around, but he was slippery.’
      • ‘This eternally slippery character then keeps cropping up throughout the story to pass judgment on pivotal events.’
      • ‘These money men are as practised in the art of the ‘spin’ as the most slippery politician.’
      • ‘Father Jack, as we're now calling him, is on a moral crusade, after all the polling showed that everyone thinks he's too slippery.’
      • ‘In this hour, a general talks strategy against a slippery enemy.’
      • ‘It was much harder to tackle him down, partly because he was so slippery.’
      • ‘Have I been taken in, or is she just a slippery customer?’
      • ‘But last night he proved he could also turn on the power in the latter stages after initially being frustrated by his slippery opponent.’
      evasive, unreliable, unpredictable, hard to pin down
      View synonyms
    2. 1.2 (of a word or concept) elusive in meaning because changing according to one's point of view.
      ‘the word ‘intended’ is a decidedly slippery one’
      • ‘Police effectiveness is a notoriously slippery concept to define or measure.’
      • ‘Aristotle was a thoroughgoing ‘empiricist’ in two senses of that slippery term.’
      • ‘I firmly believe the answer is no, if one wants to retain any meaningful working definition of the slippery concept of consciousness.’
      • ‘I have found the point, as I say, finely balanced. ‘Facility’ is a slippery word.’
      • ‘Governments of course always claim to be acting in the national interest, but it's a very slippery term.’
      • ‘Party allegiance itself has become a more slippery concept, as political cross-dressing blurs the lines between the parties.’
      • ‘The slippery concept of postmodernism is sometimes applied to all the above ideologies.’
      • ‘Clarifying this slippery concept, however, suggests that the most important changes pointed to by postmodernism are political.’
      • ‘All this may be true, but these are slippery words.’
      • ‘In that context the election packages, dignified artificially by the term manifesto, were based on very slippery assumptions.’
      • ‘Simplicity is a slippery concept, but the best technologies can be learned by looking at the input device, not by studying a manual.’
      • ‘But existential is a slippery word, in politics as well as philosophy.’
      • ‘But ideas turn around, they are as slippery as eels, and it's easy to lose control of them.’
      • ‘But the slippery term keeps expanding to encompass more and more groups.’
      • ‘I was not concerned with the noise, or the ‘nuisance’ - a very slippery concept - but with safety.’
      • ‘It's a nuanced world we live in, and responsibility is such a slippery concept.’
      • ‘The fabricated nature of a dispute as a precondition for the admissibility of a referral is a slippery concept, not without dangerous pitfalls.’
      • ‘Bias in the context of this case is a slippery term.’
      • ‘ART is a slippery, infinitely subjective concept, and maybe the hardest word to define, but plenty of people have given it a shot.’
      • ‘But all you are doing is demonstrating what an absolutely slippery concept tax avoidance is.’


  • slippery slope

    • A course of action likely to lead to something bad or disastrous.

      ‘he is on the slippery slope towards a life of crime’
      • ‘Not me, evidently: and so my first step was taken on that slippery slope leading down to a kind of gentle madness.’
      • ‘They're offering an argument that, should you accept it, drops you on a slippery slope leading down to veganism.’
      • ‘This leads them down a slippery slope until, at the end of the play, they ‘tear each other's throats out’.’
      • ‘Critics say the law would be a slippery slope leading to anti-abortion laws in Canada.’
      • ‘The concern, of course, is that ID cards could lead the country down a slippery slope.’
      • ‘The idea that a decision cannot be judged at the moment but only retrospectively opens a slippery slope of justification.’
      • ‘Let me a bit more explicit, by identifying three particular ways that the slippery slope can work here.’
      • ‘Once you start putting police all over the place, including private businesses, it become a slippery slope.’
      • ‘In the very least, it is part of the slippery slope that has led to dislocation, desperation and even despair.’
      • ‘And would changes along these lines be a slippery slope or a maturing process within the framework of the United Kingdom?’


Late 15th century: from dialect slipper ‘slippery’, probably suggested by Luther's schlipfferig.