Viscosity is the property of a fluid which opposes the relative motion between two surfaces of the fluid that are moving at different velocities. In simple terms, viscosity means friction between the molecules of fluid. When the fluid is forced through a tube, the particles which compose the fluid generally move more quickly near the tube's axis and more slowly near its walls; therefore some stress (such as a pressure difference between the two ends of the tube) is needed to overcome the friction between particle layers to keep the fluid moving. For a given velocity pattern, the stress required is proportional to the fluid's viscosity.
A fluid that has no resistance to shear stress is known as an ideal or inviscid fluid. Zero viscosity is observed only at very low temperatures in superfluids. Otherwise, all fluids have positive viscosity and are technically said to be viscous or viscid. A fluid with a relatively high viscosity, such as pitch, may appear to be a solid.
The dynamic viscosity of a fluid expresses its resistance to shearing flows, where adjacent layers move parallel to each other with different speeds. It can be defined through the idealized situation known as a Couette flow, where a layer of fluid is trapped between two horizontal plates, one fixed and one moving horizontally at constant speed . This fluid has to be homogeneous in the layer and at different shear stresses. (The plates are assumed to be very large so that one need not consider what happens near their edges.)
If the speed of the top plate is low enough, the fluid particles will move parallel to it, and their speed will vary linearly from zero at the bottom to u at the top. Each layer of fluid will move faster than the one just below it, and friction between them will give rise to a force resisting their relative motion. In particular, the fluid will apply on the top plate a force in the direction opposite to its motion, and an equal but opposite one to the bottom plate. An external force is therefore required in order to keep the top plate moving at constant speed.