Adhesive may be used interchangeably with glue, cement, mucilage, or paste, and is any substance applied to one surface, or both surfaces, of two separate items that binds them together and resists their separation. Adjectives may be used in conjunction with the word "adhesive" to describe properties based on the substance's physical or chemical form, the type of materials joined, or conditions under which it is applied.
The use of adhesives offers many advantages over binding techniques such as sewing, mechanical fastening, thermal bonding, etc. These include the ability to bind different materials together, to distribute stress more efficiently across the joint, the cost effectiveness of an easily mechanized process, an improvement in aesthetic design, and increased design flexibility. Disadvantages of adhesive use include decreased stability at high temperatures, relative weakness in bonding large objects with a small bonding surface area, and greater difficulty in separating objects during testing. Adhesives are typically organized by the method of adhesion. These are then organized into reactive and non-reactive adhesives, which refers to whether the adhesive chemically reacts in order to harden. Alternatively they can be organized by whether the raw stock is of natural or synthetic origin, or by their starting physical phase.
Adhesives may be found naturally or produced synthetically. The earliest human use of adhesive-like substances was approximately 200,000 years ago. The first references to adhesives in literature first appeared in approximately 2000 BCE. The Greeks and Romans made great contributions to the development of adhesives. In Europe, glue was not widely used until the period 1500–1700 CE. From then until the 1900s increases in adhesive use and discovery were relatively gradual. Only since the last century has the development of synthetic adhesives accelerated rapidly, and innovation in the field continues to the present.