The debate rages on as long as water runs. What is water: wet or not?

Water is What? (Editorial face-off)

April 10, 2018

Disclaimer: Articles designated as “Editorial” represent the views and opinions of the author, not the 2017-2018 Periscope staff, CHS Administration, or the CHS student body.

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Water is Wet–Soaking, Sopping, Wet

Imagine, a fish underwater, swimming in the sea, then, all the sudden, he takes a bite and is pulled from the water in which he lived. Now, holding that writhing fish in your hands, he’s sopping wet. So, wouldn’t he still be wet while he’s in the water?

The debate may have begun to die out but, here, we still debate.

Water is wet and even though it may not be a popular opinion, I’m sticking with it. However, I’m not alone. 49 percent of voters on believe that water is wet and they each have their own reasons why.

One voter said, “The word ‘wet’ means saturated, covered or surrounded by another liquid. Because water can be separated into individual H2O molecules each one is surrounded by another one and that makes them wet because they are all surrounded/covered by another liquid–although an individual H2O molecule is not wet.”

On that note, let’s return to that fish, as he swims along he is ‘saturated’ in water, making him wet. Many people argue that water can only make other things wet by surrounding them, doesn’t that mean that the water molecules are wet. They are, by definition, surrounded by water?

Water can’t make things wet if it’s not wet itself. While some people argue, wet is just a feeling and water is wet when we touch it, doesn’t that mean that it is wet even when we aren’t feeling it? I mean people don’t constantly need to be feeling sad for the feeling to exist and still be prevalent.

On the same note, one Planet-science writer said, “Saying water is wet is like saying that wood is hard or fire is hot.” It’s just common sense. I mean, if water isn’t wet, what is it?

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  1. Matthew Powell on April 17th, 2018 1:51 pm

    Water is wet.
    Let’s look at a few definitions of wet that can be found in dictionaries.
    “covered or saturated with water or another liquid.” -Google
    “moistened, covered, or soaked with water or some other liquid”
    “consisting of, containing, covered with, or soaked with liquid (such as water)” -Merriam-Webster.

    All water is wet, because all water is necessarily saturated with itself. Additionally, If we are to go with Webster’s definition, it could also be thought of as wet as water does contain water. The definition of wet at no point relies on the changing of an object due to a watery occurrence.

    Water is Wet.

  2. Dan Campbell on April 19th, 2018 1:05 pm

    Thus we have slipped into the realm of science…

    The word “wet” has no operational scientific definition. Instead, scientists employ words with well articulated and differentiated meanings. Solutes can be solvated, liquids miscible, ionic compounds may be soluble when they dissociate readily in solvents, water produces spheres of hydration when ions are introduced. Intermolecular forces, specifically dipole-ion and dipole-dipole interactions arrange dihydrogen monoxide molecules such that electrostatic attractions are maximized and electrostatic repulsions are minimized. Thus achieving the lowest energy equilibrium state achievable by a given system and abiding by the second law of thermodynamics (second order equation of state known as Gibb’s Free Energy). Unfortunately, science can offer no justifiable conclusion on this most unscientific of terms.

    Thus the argument still stands, is water wet? This debate is truly an argument of semantics (the meaning of words). One must first establish an operational definition of what “wet” is. Ashley and Matthew both argue that wet, should be/is defined as a state of being surrounded by water molecules. A bold definition indeed. Problems arise when one tries to interpret the state of the surface of water. These water molecules (at the interface between the lower liquid and atmosphere) are exposed to the atmosphere and thus would not be saturated with water, are they still wet? Or the inside surface of the glass beaker holding the water, these silicon dioxide molecules are not surrounded by or saturated with water molecules, are they still wet? Or the oil still floating on the surface of the Gulf, is it wet?

    Wet should rightly be defined as the interaction of a liquid with some other substance. Thus we can accurately address the aforementioned issues. In particular: hydrophobic substances. Water is not wet, wet is not a property. Wet is an interaction, necessitating the existence of some other frame of reference, beyond water itself.

Water Isn’t Wet; How can it be?

It can often be difficult to keep up with social media but recently one debate has been extremely prominent among teenagers and young adults. It has divided and brought together people from all walks of life, sparked numerous heated debates, and probably even parted seas: Is water wet?

If you aren’t aware of the recent popularity of the debate on social media you might think the concept is illogical. The term “wet” is often used to describe water and objects saturated in water/other liquids.

This might cause some not think upon the subject and immediately conclude that the compound is, in fact, wet. However, when one ponders on the topic, they might be confused and not know what to believe.

The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines “wet” as “consisting of, containing, covered with, or soaked with liquid (such as water).” This still doesn’t answer all of our questions, however.

Writer Ewan Sweeney from a post on said “The reason it feels as it feels when water touches the skin is actually a complex electro-chemical reaction which works at amazing speeds. The sensory inputs are a combination of your body’s pH at that moment, the water’s pH, your body’s temperature at that moment, the water’s temperature, the atmospheric pressure, and molecular polarity.”

So, from a scientific perspective, “wet” describes the connection between human skin and water, recognizing where the term was originally established.  

According to, the liquid substance cannot be defined as wet. Writer Jacqueline Castles said “Water isn’t wet. Wetness is a description of our experience of water; what happens to us when we come into contact with water in such a way that it impinges on our state of being. We, or our possessions, ‘get wet’.”

There’s our answer, water is not wet. The term “wet” can only be appropriately used to describe someone or something that has come in contact with water and has physically changed because of such an occurrence. Water itself is not and cannot be wet.

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1 Comment

All comments will be approved by the website moderator. Comments containing inappropriate language will not be approved.

  1. Karen Daniels on May 18th, 2019 2:24 am

    Water isn’t wet, because water isn’t wet. How can water water be wet? How can it, hah?????????????????/ Tell me. Haw can water be wet?????????????? Tell me? Hah, all those people who think that water is wet.

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