AskDefine | Define quicksand

Dictionary Definition



1 a treacherous situation that tends to entrap and destroy
2 a pit filled with loose wet sand into which objects are sucked down

User Contributed Dictionary



  1. Wet sand that things readily sink in, often found near rivers or coasts
    My feet were firmly lodged in the quicksand, and the more I struggled the more I sank into it.


Extensive Definition

Quicksand is a colloid hydrogel consisting of fine granular matter (such as sand or silt), clay, and salt water. The origin of the name refers to "quick" in the older meaning of "alive" rather than "fast," and is thus similar to the origin of the term quicksilver for mercury.
Water circulation underground can focus in an area with just the right mixture of fine sands and other materials such as clay. The water moves up and then down slowly in a convection-like manner throughout a column of sand under optimal conditions, and the sand remains a generally solid mass. This lubricates the sand particles and renders them unable to support any significant weight, since they move around with very little friction, behaving more like a liquid when exposed to stress. Since the water does not usually go all the way up through the sand, the sand above does not appear to move at all, and can support leaves and other small debris, making quicksand difficult to distinguish from the surrounding environment.


Quicksand is a non-Newtonian fluid: when undisturbed it often appears to be solid ("gel" form), but a minor (less than 1%) change in the stress on the quicksand will cause a sudden decrease in its viscosity ("sol" form). After the initial disturbance—such as a person attempting to walk on it—the water and sand in the quicksand separate and dense regions of sand sediment form; it is because of the formation of these high volume fraction regions that the viscosity of the quicksand seems to suddenly increase. If a person steps in it they will start to sink. In order to move within the quicksand, a person or object must apply sufficient pressure on the compacted sand to re-introduce enough water to liquefy it. The forces required to do this are quite large: to remove a foot from quicksand at a speed of one centimeter per second would require the same amount of force as "that needed to lift a medium-sized car."

Recent research findings

It was commonly believed that the behavior of quicksand was due solely to saturated or supersaturated suspensions of granules in water. Pressure from underground sources of water would separate and suspend the granular particles, reducing the friction between them. As of September 2005, it has been shown that it is the presence of salt that is largely responsible. The stability of the colloidal quicksand is compromised by the presence of salt, increasing the likelihood of sand flocculation and the formation of the high viscosity regions of sediment responsible for quicksand's "trapping" power.


Quicksand may be found inland (on riverbanks, near lakes, or in marshes), or near the coast.
One region notorious for its quicksands is Morecambe Bay, England. As the bay is very broad and shallow, a person trapped by the quicksand would be exposed to the danger of the returning tide, which can come in rapidly.


quicksand in Bengali: চোরাবালি
quicksand in Danish: Kviksand
quicksand in German: Treibsand
quicksand in Estonian: Vesiliiv
quicksand in Spanish: Arena movediza
quicksand in French: Sable mouvant
quicksand in Hebrew: חול טובעני
quicksand in Hungarian: Futóhomok
quicksand in Italian: Sabbie mobili
quicksand in Malay (macrolanguage): Pasir jerlus
quicksand in Dutch: Drijfzand
quicksand in Japanese: 流砂
quicksand in Occitan (post 1500): Arena movedissa
quicksand in Polish: Kurzawka (geologia)
quicksand in Portuguese: Areia movediça
quicksand in Russian: Зыбучий песок
quicksand in Finnish: Juoksuhiekka
quicksand in Swedish: Kvicksand
quicksand in Vietnamese: Cát lún

Synonyms, Antonyms and Related Words

baygall, bind, bog, bottom, bottomland, bottoms, breakers ahead, buffalo wallow, cardhouse, cause for alarm, clutch, complication, coral heads, crisis, crunch, danger, dangerous ground, embarrassing position, embarrassment, emergency, endangerment, everglade, fen, fenland, fine how-do-you-do, gaping chasm, gathering clouds, glade, hazard, hell to pay, hobble, hog wallow, holm, hot water, house of cards, how-do-you-do, imbroglio, imperilment, ironbound coast, jam, jeopardy, ledges, lee shore, marais, marish, marsh, marshland, meadow, menace, mere, mess, mire, mix, moor, moorland, morass, moss, mud, mud flat, parlous straits, pass, peat bog, peril, pickle, pinch, pitfall, plight, predicament, pretty pass, pretty pickle, pretty predicament, quagmire, quicksands, risk, rockbound coast, rocks, rocks ahead, salt marsh, sandbank, sandbar, sands, scrape, shallows, shoals, slob land, slough, sough, spot, squeeze, stew, sticky wicket, storm clouds, strait, straits, sump, swale, swamp, swampland, taiga, thin ice, threat, tight spot, tight squeeze, tightrope, tricky spot, undercurrent, undertow, unholy mess, wallow, wash
Privacy Policy, About Us, Terms and Conditions, Contact Us
Permission is granted to copy, distribute and/or modify this document under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License, Version 1.2
Material from Wikipedia, Wiktionary, Dict
Valid HTML 4.01 Strict, Valid CSS Level 2.1