I am trying to find an adjective describing "very slow". Can I know what are the possible candidates or, better, the best word for it?

To further clarify my question, I am not looking for an adjective to describe something that one think might be slow but, instead, in a more objective way. For example, given an object A you describe its speed is "slow", and you know that the speed of object B is slower than that of object A, then what is the best word you use to describe the speed of B?

The ideal answer would be the case that: once one said A is slow, B is xxx (where xxx is answer), then we will have no doubt that B is slower than A.

Another example, when someone said A is warm and B is hot, then we know that B is warmer than A. I am looking for a word for slow in this case.

Bonus question: if there is also an object C that is slower than B, what word would you use to describe C given C is faster than "not moving". Or, what is the longest sequence of adjectives that we can describe things with different degrees of slowness?

  • 1
    Could you provide more context? Are you describing time itself, or how a person works/drives/writes/thinks etc.?
    – Mari-Lou A
    Nov 19, 2013 at 9:23
  • Also, are you asking for a verb, adverb, or an adjective?
    – J.R.
    Nov 19, 2013 at 9:44
  • 2
    I'm putting this question on hold pending more information from the O.P. Many things can move slowly: traffic, animals, soldiers, boats, athletes, weather patterns, etc. – even time itself, as @Mari-Lou mentions (although, of course, time only seems to move slowly). We can slog, trudge, creep, plod, move like snails, move like glaciers; moreover, slow can mean frustratingly slow, or relaxingly slow. We need more information before we can help pinpoint a "best word."
    – J.R.
    Nov 19, 2013 at 10:02
  • 2
    Thanks for updating the question; I think you'll get better answers now. As an aside, I don't think one should assume that people reading a question can fill in the details merely by looking at the tags; not everyone pays a lot of attention to those, and many questions don't get tagged very accurately. But I'm glad this question got "beefed up;" in fact, I've upvoted it now because I think it's both challenging and well-written.
    – J.R.
    Nov 19, 2013 at 18:37
  • 1
    I think I understand. You want an objective scale, words that express different levels of speed or slowness as in cold; cool; tepid; warm; hot; boiling.
    – Mari-Lou A
    Nov 19, 2013 at 19:29

4 Answers 4


I can't think of multiple single-word elements that are unambiguously scaled (is "sluggish" faster or slower than "plodding"?) but there are certainly phrases that can be used...

normal -> a bit slow -> slow -> slow as molasses -> slower than molasses in January

(I'd be inclined personally to say that "sluggish" is a good substitute for "a bit slow"--it's slower than normal, but not as slow as just plain "slow"--but I'm not at all sure that it would be widely agreed upon.)

Going in the other direction, you could have:

normal -> brisk -> fast -> faster than a speeding bullet -> at the speed of light

  • Except molasses in January is not slow, it's frighteningly fast. bostonmagazine.com/news/blog/2013/08/16/… Apr 14, 2016 at 23:29
  • Oobleck is another nonnewtonian substance here and here, however the effects are the opposite as with molasses. Treacle is always slow: "swimming through treacle"...
    – Peter
    Apr 16, 2016 at 0:44
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    @AlanCarmack, 7.5 tons of molasses, under pressure and gravity, in an unseasonably warm January, is frighteningly fast. A normal jar of molasses, outside in a normal January winter, will be suitably glacial. :-)
    – Hellion
    Apr 16, 2016 at 1:49
  • Trouble with using "molasses" is that it's too culturally limited. "Molasses" is practically unused in many cultures outside the US. The same applies to many similarly folksy similes which the user may not even realise is the product of their immediate local culture, but which to an outsider to that culture would sound "rural" to an amusing degree. Jan 10, 2021 at 10:13

Very slow is fine as it is, and most English speakers would probably just use that - but you can also use:

(moving at a) glacial pace

lethargic - very slow with connotations of laziness


plodding - for people who are moving very slowly

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  • 1
    If glacial pace (~1-10m/year) is too fast for you, there's always "at speed of continental drift" (~3cm/year) :)
    – SF.
    Nov 19, 2013 at 8:27
  • 1
    @SF: "Moving at a glacial pace" is idiomatic meaning "moving very slowly". It does not mean moving 1-10m a year. "Moving at the speed of continental drift" is not particularly idiomatic in comparison. See: books.google.com/ngrams/…
    – Matt
    Nov 19, 2013 at 8:30
  • you really rarely need to go this slow.
    – SF.
    Nov 19, 2013 at 8:39
  • 1
    I don't understand what you are trying to say with this Ngram. Why didn't you include the words "plodding" and "lethargic"? Moreover it's more idiomatic to say: "snail's pace" than "snaillike pace" or "snail-like pace"
    – Mari-Lou A
    Nov 19, 2013 at 9:17
  • @Mari-LouA: There's a limit to how many things you can put on an Ngram before they reuse colors and it becomes confusing. For comparison I chose "glacial" from my answer and was comparing it to "snaillike" and "slothful" proposed by Maulik's answer and "at the speed of continental drift" proposed by SF. Perhaps I should have just left the graph as a comment, since it appears to be confusing some people.
    – Matt
    Nov 19, 2013 at 11:02

Music might provide a partial answer to the OP's question. Alas I am not a musician, but I am aware of musical terms that describe the intensity, the pace, and the pitch that a piece of music should be played at.

Fully aware that I might be missing, ignoring key elements and that the OP's request is asking for something far more generic, but at least this might get the ball rolling :)

Wikipedia: Tempo

In musical terminology, tempo (Italian for time, plural: tempi or tempos) is the speed or pace of a given piece. Tempo is a crucial element of most musical compositions, as it can affect the mood and difficulty of a piece. [...] Beats per minute (BPM) is a unit typically used as a measure of tempo in music and heart rate.


  • Larghissimo – very, very slow (19 BPM and under)
  • Grave – slow and solemn (20–40 BPM)
  • Lento – slowly (40–45 BPM)
  • Largo – broadly (45–50 BPM)
  • Larghetto – rather broadly (50–55 BPM)
  • Adagio – slow and stately (literally, "at ease") (55–65 BPM)
  • Adagietto – rather slow (65–69 BPM)
  • Andante moderato – a bit slower than andante (69–72 BPM)
  • Andante – at a walking pace (73–77 BPM)
  • Andantino – slightly faster than andante (although in some cases it can be taken to mean - slightly slower than andante) (78–83 BPM)
  • Marcia moderato – moderately, in the manner of a march[4][5] (83–85 BPM)
  • Moderato – moderately (86–97 BPM)
  • 2
    My wife and I took a nice, leisurely, larghetto walk last night. Call me crazy, but I like it!
    – J.R.
    Nov 19, 2013 at 20:44

Go for 'snaillike' or 'slothful' derived from their very slow movement. But yes, they do move! If you want to describe almost no change/progress/movement - use 'static', which means not in physical motion.

Merriam-Webster clarifies it:

...moving or proceeding at less than the normal, desirable, or required speed the application process for an overseas adoption has been moving at a snaillike pace

  • Snails are actually surprisingly fast. In fact, one of my pet snails sometimes reaches speeds in excess of 0.002 mph!
    – user230
    Nov 19, 2013 at 8:29
  • @snailboat In this context, snail-like has nothing to do with the speed (the number). It's about moving less than the normal or desirable. MW clarifies it: Snail-like (Adj): moving or proceeding at less than the normal, desirable, or required speed. Your pet is energetic :)
    – Maulik V
    Nov 19, 2013 at 9:42
  • @MaulkV - Methinks you need to recalibrate your sarcasm meter... :^)
    – J.R.
    Nov 19, 2013 at 9:46
  • 3
    While snails are often used to describe "slowness" metaphorically, sloths are usually called upon to describe laziness or apathy, not pace. In other words: slow as a snail, lazy as a sloth. I wouldn't recommend using "slothful" to describe slowly, unless you were also wanting to imply a very lazy sluggishness as well. More here.
    – J.R.
    Nov 19, 2013 at 9:52
  • 2
    Sloths are also known for being slow. In fact, their name is derived from the word slow! But because of the association J.R. points out, if you want to use them to express slowness, I'd say something like "slow as a sloth". And yes, sorry--my first comment was a joke :-)
    – user230
    Nov 19, 2013 at 17:01

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