Abstract The influence of speed on the friction and wear of polyphenylene oxide (PPO), polyetheretherketone (PEEK) and polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE) has been determined in two sliding configurations under both dry and lubricated conditions. With a line-contact geometry, the effects of debris aggregation on wear play a more important role than with a distributed contact. In lubricated conditions, using polydimethyl siloxane fluids, contributions to load support in both sliding configurations appear to persist down to very low speeds of sliding (about 10 −3 m s −1) and no clear regime of “boundary lubrication” can be identified. With PPO in line-contact conditions there is a “dwell period” in which lubrication persists following the removal of excess fluid from the contact, and this is shown to result from the formation of an aggregated layer of plasticized wear debris on the polymer surface. There is no such dwell period, however, for PPO sliding in distributed-contact conditions or for PEEK and PTFE in either contact configuration.