GC: n

S: BMC – (last access: 3 February 2021); NHS – (last access: 3 February 2021); NSC – (last access: 4 February 2021).

N: 1. Late 14c., “a communicable disease; a harmful or corrupting influence,” from Old French contagion and directly from Latin contagionem (nominative contagio) “a touching, contact,” often in a bad sense, “a contact with something physically or morally unclean, contagion,” from contingere “to touch,” from assimilated form of com “with, together” + tangere “to touch,” from PIE root *tag- “to touch, handle.” Meaning “infectious contact or communication” is from 1620s.
A distinction between contagion and infection is sometimes adopted, the former being limited to the transmission of disease by actual contact of the diseased part with a healthy absorbent or abraded surface, and the latter to transmission through the atmosphere by floating germs or miasmata. There are, however, cases of transmission which do not fall under either of these divisions, and there are some which fall under both. In common use no precise discrimination of the two words is attempted. [Century Dictionary, 1897]
2. The transmission of a disease by direct contact with a person who has the disease or by indirect contact.
3. Differences between “contagion” and “infection”:
– Contagion. 1aa contagious disease. bthe transmission of a disease by direct or indirect contact. ca disease-producing agent (such as a virus).
2aPOISON. bcontagious influence, quality, or nature. ccorrupting influence or contact. 3arapid communication of an influence (such as a doctrine or emotional state). ban influence that spreads rapidly.
– Infection.
1athe state produced by the establishment of one or more pathogenic agents (such as a bacteria, protozoans, or viruses) in or on the body of a suitable host. ba disease resulting from infection. 2an act or process of infecting something or someone also the establishment of a pathogen in its host after invasion. 3an infectious agent or material contaminated with an infectious agent. 4: the communication of emotions or qualities through example or contact also the emotion or quality that is communicated. 5: the act or result of corrupting someone’s morals, character, etc.
4. Differences between “infectious” and “contagious”:
Infectious diseases are caused by microscopic germs (such as bacteria or viruses) that get into the body and cause problems. Some — but not all — infectious diseases spread directly from one person to another. Infectious diseases that spread from person to person are said to be contagious.
– Some infections spread to people from an animal or insect, but are not contagious from another human. Lyme disease is an example: You can’t catch it from someone you’re hanging out with or pass in the street. It comes from the bite of an infected tick.
– Contagious diseases (such as the flu, colds, or strep throat) spread from person to person in several ways. One way is through direct physical contact, like touching or kissing a person who has the infection. Another way is when an infectious microbe travels through the air after someone nearby sneezes or coughs.
– Sometimes people get contagious diseases by touching or using something an infected person has touched or used — like sharing a straw with someone who has mono or stepping into the shower after someone who has athlete’s foot. And sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) are spread through all types of sex — oral, anal, or vaginal.
5. Transmission versus contagion:
– Transmission (medicine, biology): The passing of a communicable disease from an infected host individual or group to a conspecific individual or group.
– Contagion:

  • A disease spread by contact.
  • The spread or transmission of such a disease.
  • The spread of anything harmful, as if it were such a disease.

6. Collocations:

  • contagion of, fear(s) of contagion, incidence of contagion, spread of contagion.
  • contagion effect, incidence of contagion
  • common contagion, fearful of contagion, (high) contagion rate(s), widespread contagion.
  • to accept, to avoid, to cancel, to contain, to escape, to limit, to spread by, to take contagion precautions.

7. Cultural Interrelation: We can mention the novel Contagion (1996) by Robin Cook and the movie Contagion (2011) directed by Steven Soderbergh.

S: 1. OED – (last access: 3 February 2021). 2. TERMIUM PLUS – (last access: 3 February 2021). 3. MW –; (last access: 4 February 2021). 4. KH – (last access: 3 February 2021). 5. Wikidiff –,a%20disease%20spread%20by%20contact. (last access: 4 February 2021). 6. MW – (last access: 4 February 2021). 7. EncBrit – (last access: 4 February 2021); (last access: 19 January 2016); (last access: 19 January 2016).


CR: disease