Is Water Wet?

Science is defined as the intellectual and practical activity encompassing the systematic study of the structure and behavior of the physical and natural world through observation and experiment. Over the years, scientists have worked very hard to give meaning to things in this world. Sometimes, scientific reasoning can strike up controversies between other scientists and intellectuals. One may think, what better place to turn to with scientific controversies than a college campus? So of course, I turned to Wheaton’s students and faculty to answer the loaded question: Is water wet? 

Out of the total number of students and faculty members surveyed, 48% said that water is wet, leaving the remaining 52% to believe that water is not wet. 

Some arguments in support of water being wet include: “What is water if not wet?” This reasoning is straightforward and understandable. A detailed argument was made by Erica Drufva ’23, supporting the idea that water is wet. “Water is wet because when something is wet, it has water on it and on a molecular level, water molecules are bonded on top of each other, therefore water is wet.” An extension to the previous argument that a couple of students brought up was that one water molecule alone is not wet, but when water molecules touch each other, they make each other wet. This causes a bunch of water molecules together (which one would classify as water) to be wet. 

There were also many persuasive reasons that water should not be considered wet. “Things that can be wet can also be dry. Water can’t switch between dry and wet so it can be neither,” said Eva Danielson ’22. It is also important to note that wet is an adjective while water is a noun. An argument built off of wet being a description is, “wet is a description of things that liquid touches. A shirt can get wet, but the water itself is not wet. Anything in contact with water is thus wet, but water itself cannot be deemed as ‘wet,’” said Sophie Clarkin ’23.

“Wet is a description for water. If water were wet, you could replace the word water with wet and sentences would still make sense. But it doesn’t. You don’t drink a glass of wet, you drink a glass of water,” said Lauren Chiouetta ’21. 

“I don’t think water is wet because ‘wet’ means being covered or saturated with a liquid. Water is not that, it in itself is a liquid, but it cannot be covered or saturated in itself,” said Lillie Shepherd ’20.

Even after hearing input from Wheaton’s campus, whether or not water is wet still seemed to be quite the toss-up. I had to do some research of my own. Interestingly enough, when I researched ‘Is water wet?’ the very first result was a very definitive answer:

“Water isn’t wet by itself, but it makes other materials wet when it sticks to the surface of them.” So there you have it, folks, water itself is not wet according to the internet.

I encourage anyone reading this to ponder controversies in this world that may not have a definitive answer because taking action is how curiosity can lead to discovery.