Word Confusion: Viscose vs Vicious vs Viscous

Posted April 16, 2015 by Kathy Davie in Author Resources, Self-Editing, Word Confusions, Writing

Revised as of 12 October 2017

Viscose may not be confused very often with vicious or viscous, it still has that potential in this Word Confusion.

One way to differentiate between the words is in how they sound. Vicious almost requires a snarl to say while viscous has a thick feel to it. It’s more difficult to come up with a sound for viscose. There’s a choppy sound to that -cose, which could reflect an ax chopping down a tree, which is after all, rayon’s origin.

Consider the following:
With a viscose chirp-hiss, Sosch finally…

Hmm, Sosch burned the rayon and that’s why it made that noise?

With a vicious chirp-hiss, Sosch finally…

Ooh, sounds like this Sosch is really angry

With a viscous chirp-hiss, Sosch finally…

This Sosch sounds like he’s getting ready to let loose with a really sloppy and thick spit-ball.

The viscose dogs attacked.

Stuffed animals! Must be a pillow fight.

The vicious dogs attacked.

Eeek, I wanna climb a tree or get inside a locked room to get away from these angry, biting dogs.

The viscous dogs attacked.

Eeew, sounds like they were slobbering…

The viscose lava flowed downhill.

Nah, viscose is made from wood. I should think it would burn right up.

The vicious lava flowed downhill.

Well, okay, hot lava that can melt anything isn’t exactly friendly, but I don’t think I can call it vicious.

The viscous lava flowed downhill.

Thank god it’s moving slowly. We have more time to get away.

Word Confusions…

…started as my way of dealing with a professional frustration with properly spelled words that were out of context in manuscripts I was editing as well as books I was reviewing. It evolved into a sharing of information with y’all. I’m hoping you’ll share with us words that have been a bête noir for you from either end. Consider sharing this Word Confusion with friends by tweeting it.

Viscose Vicious Viscous
Credit to: Apple Dictionary.com

A black rayon bra shirt and a fuchsia wrap dress

“Bra Shirt, and Same with Viscose Wrap Dress” is Tobias “ToMar” Maier’s own work under the CC BY-SA 3.0 license, via Wikimedia Commons

An etching by J Howitt of two wolves snarling over a bone.

“Two Wolves Snarling at Each Other Over a Bone” is courtesy of under the CC BY 4.0 license, via Wikimedia Commons

Two vicious wolves snarling at each other.

Chocolate milkshake

“A Viscous Chocolate Malt Milkshake” by Charles Willgren from Fort Collins, Colorado, United States, under the CC BY 2.0 license, via Wikimedia Commons

It may not be lava, but “a chocolate malt at the restaurant at Fishing Bridge” also has a higher viscosity than water.

Part of Grammar:
Plural for the noun: viscose
Adjective Adjective
A viscous orange-brown solution obtained by treating cellulose with sodium hydroxide and carbon disulfide, used as the basis of manufacturing rayon fiber and transparent cellulose film

  • Rayon fabric or fiber made from this
Deliberately cruel or violent

  • [Of an animal] Wild and dangerous to people
  • Serious or dangerous

[Literary] Immoral

[Archaic; of language or a line of reasoning] Imperfect

  • Defective
Having a thick, sticky consistency between solid and liquid

Having a high viscosity

Rayon has been used as a silk substitute.

Stockings made from rayon were a poor substitute for silk and one of the reasons Du Pont invented nylon stockings.

Always wash rayon before sewing it, as it shrinks quite a bit.

Rayon wrinkles very easily.

It was a vicious deliberate assault.

There’s a vicious flu bug going around.
Every soul on earth, virtuous or vicious, shall perish.

A more viscous lava flows more slowly.

Heated maple syrup has a lower viscosity than cold syrup.

The thicker the liquid, the more viscous it is.

History of the Word:
First known use: 1896

Late 19th century from the late Latin viscosus, from the Latin viscus meaning birdlime.

Middle English (in the sense characterized by immorality). It’s from Old French vicious or Latin vitiosus from vitium meaning vice. Late 19th century from the late Latin viscosus, from the Latin viscus meaning birdlime. Yeah, who knew viscose and vicious could have the same word origin?

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C’mon, get it out of your system, bitch, whine, moan…which words are your pet peeves?

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