Friday, April 8, 2011

Wet, damp, moist and other words of the same semantic field

Wet, damp, moist,...Which of these words would you use to describe something that has got water or another liquid on its surface? They are not exact equivalents, and sometimes it's difficult for learners of English to spot the difference in nuance. We are going to see their meanings and we'll also add some other words of the same semantic field.

  • Wet is used when something is full of water. You can use it with intensifiers like soaking or dripping.      He was walking under the rain and by the time he got home his clothes were soaking wet.
  • Soaked means very wet. It is usually used for clothes. If they are extremely wet, we would say soaked through. When they finally stopped, the storm having passed, they were soaked through and chilled to the bone.

Soaking wet / drenched
mage: 'Cleo being soaked'

  • Soggy is used for paper, food or similar that have become soft because they are wet. It can also be used for clothes or for bad, wet weather. It was so damp in that old house that the bread and biscuits became soggy in minutes.
  • Waterlogged is used for ground that has so much water on the surface that it cannot hold any more. The river burst its banks and all the fields were waterlogged.
  • Damp is slightly wet, but in an umpleasant way. We stayed at a horrible hotel. It was cold and damp.
  • Moist is also slightly wet, but generally not in an unpleasant way. If something is moist, it is neither too dry nor too wet. It can be used for the skin and even for cakes. Doctors advise that a child's skin should be kept moist with softening lotions.
          This cake is delicious. It´s so moist!

Moisture on a rose
Image: 'Pink rose'

  • Humid is used to describe the weather. It means wet and hot, containing a great deal of water vapour. This plant thrives in humid places like the Amazon Rainforest.
  • To wet or to get wet
  • To soak is to make someone or something very wet. Figuratively it is used to mean “to be immersed in something”, even if it's not a liquid. He is extremely wealthy. In fact, he is soaked in riches.
  • To drench is to make someone or something extremely wet with a lot of water. The passing car drenched me as it drove through a puddle.
  • To flood is to cover an area of land with a great amount of water. Hurricane Katrina flooded a great part of New Orleans.
  • To dampen or damp is to make something slightly wet. You should dampen the soil before sowing the seeds.
  • To moisten is to put a few drops of liquid onto something. Add enough water to moisten the cake mixture.
Some idioms:
  • Wet behind the ears: inexperienced.
  • A wet blanket: someone who spoils a happy event, also called killjoy or spoilsport
  • If you wet your whistle you have an alcoholic drink.
To sum up:

extremely soak soaked/soaking
drench drenched
flood flooded flood /
very wet / get
wet wetness
slightly dampen /
damp dampness
moisten moist moisture

Try this exercise to check what you have learnt.


  1. We just couldnt leave your website before saying that we really enjoyed the quality information you offer to your visitors… Will be back often to check up on new stuff you post!

  2. Thank you very much! I hope you like other posts as well! Come back soon!

  3. Thank you very much for this extremely helpful entry!

  4. I'm glad you found it useful. Thank you for your comment!

  5. Congats for your blog. It's extremely helpful and everything is so well explained!! I will be back soon.

  6. I'm very happy that you found it useful! Thank you very much for your comment. Cheers!

  7. Hi Inma, thanks for this nice and very educational site,i have learned some Difference. Cesar from Caracas

    1. Hi César,
      I'm glad it's been useful for you!
      ¡Saludos desde España!

  8. Thank you very much for the useful site. I found the suitable meaning of the word i was looking for. I couldn't find the meaning in lots of other sites i looked and loved the quiz.

    1. I'm so glad it was useful. Thank you for visiting!

  9. Greetings from Russia and thank you!!!


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