After a discussion of the role of synovial fluid as a joint lubricant, rheological measurements are described with both normal (healthy) synovial fluids and pathological ones. Shear stress and first normal stress difference are measured as a function of shear gradient to calculate the apparent shear viscosity eta 1 and the apparent normal viscosity psi 7 as well as an apparent shear modulus G'. It is found, that in case of diseased synoviae all rheological parameters deteriorate. Most significant changes are observed with the zero shear viscosity eta 0, the shear modulus G', and a characteristic time theta 1, which is the reciprocal of the critical shear rate Dc which determines the onset of shear thinning. The rheological deterioration of synovial fluids is explained in terms of solute structure, whereby a molecular mass of the backbone hyaluronic acid of at least 10(7) g.mol-1 is required for satisfactory function. A theory of the rheological performance of normal synovial fluid as well as its pathological deterioration is proposed.