Abstract The adhesion, friction, wear and lubricated behaviors of both oxide and non-oxide ceramics are reviewed. Ceramics are examined in contact with themselves, other harder materials and metals. Elastic, plastic and fracture behavior of ceramics in solid state contact is discussed. The contact load necessary to initiate fracture in ceramics is shown to be appreciably reduced with tangential motion. Both friction and wear of ceramics are anisotropic and relate to crystal structure as with metals. Grit size effects in two- and three-body abrasive wear are observed for ceramics. Both free energy of oxide formation and the d valence bond character of metals are related to the friction and wear characteristics for metals in contact with ceramics. Surface contaminants affect friction and adhesive wear. For example, carbon on silicon carbide and chlorine on aluminum oxide reduce friction while oxygen on metal surfaces in contact with ceramics increases friction. Lubrication increases the critical load necessary to initiate fracture of ceramics both in indentation and with sliding or rubbing.