Definition of contagion in US English:



  • 1The communication of disease from one person to another by close contact.

    ‘the rooms held no risk of contagion’
    • ‘The circulating nurse calls the attending pathologist and informs him or her of the possible contagion.’
    • ‘These documents give us our first clear understanding of how the tobacco contagion works.’
    • ‘Recessionary risks in the US, and widespread foot-and-mouth contagion in Europe could mean further short-term weakness.’
    • ‘The military historically follows standard civilian practice regarding contagion, diagnosis, and treatment.’
    • ‘Despite this awful reality, there are still things states can do to at least contain the risk of contagion within their populations.’
    • ‘These products keep the birds alive, even if they have the virus, which raises the risks of contagion when they are sold or transported.’
    • ‘Thus encouraged, Vincent at once commenced his work with zeal and without fear, he hurried into the scenes of contagion and entered the dwellings of disease and death.’
    • ‘Disease surveillance should be increased during floods, and information should be disseminated rapidly to dispel false rumours of contagion or outbreaks.’
    • ‘All laws of quarantine have their origin and basis in the concept of disease transmission by contagion.’
    • ‘True, the rate of contagion from smallpox vaccine is low: Of every million people who get the vaccine, only about 30 would become contagious.’
    • ‘Done properly, quarantine could often halt further contagion.’
    • ‘Hugh, one of the great worries is contagion and disease that follows something like this if the water supply is not adequate.’
    • ‘But infection or contagion of the air could be caused by people too.’
    • ‘For example, the controversial nature of inoculation at the time, not least the risk of contagion, ensured clashing attitudes and very different regulatory regimes.’
    • ‘The sick and wounded avoid infecting each other and those who are well escape contagion.’
    • ‘The confluence of invisibility, indeterminacy, and contagion understandably generates anxiety and encourages behaviour that reduces risk of exposure.’
    • ‘Could these be manipulated to reduce contagion?’
    • ‘The problem was not physical contagion which the word disease brings to mind.’
    • ‘The scientists warned against complacency, saying that the risk of contagion can only be reduced and delayed - but not eliminated - by present measures to cull and contain, and by the end of the flu season.’
    • ‘Secondly, trials using viral vectors occasionally present risks to the public through transmission of transgenes or contagion.’
    1. 1.1dated A disease spread by close contact.
      • ‘The text weaves between the two time frames, the past and the future, and in both people are dying of a mysterious contagion.’
      • ‘As a consequence, they would have come in contact with a vast array of other animals at the periphery of their habitat, which conceivably could have transferred a disease contagion to the great herds of the plains.’
      • ‘There's only one problem: the contagions we are now resistant to are not Measles, Mumps and Rubella.’
      • ‘The contagion has spread to other countries and since there is no certainty about how the virus is transmitted, there is uncertainty about how to cope with it.’
      • ‘Not everyone in a city with a smallpox contagion is going to catch it, so the overall mortality for a population center would be less than that.’
      • ‘Meanwhile the trade ship requested the bodies of the colonists, and upon being told they had burned the settlement to prevent spread of the contagion, could do nothing further in the system so moved on.’
      • ‘The second, a wasting contagion, produces an entropic narrative of slow dying, finally petering away into ignominious extinction.’
      • ‘For scarlet fever patients were kept in hospital for six weeks and only allowed to speak to visitors through the window for fear of the contagion.’
      • ‘To cut down on crowds possibly spreading contagion, all the ice rinks, along with most other facilities, were temporarily closed.’
      • ‘To talk about an epidemic of obesity is like talking about a plague of inactivity or a contagion of overeating.’
      • ‘Mortality rates dropped with the control of such contagions as smallpox, but tuberculosis continued to be a major problem that retarded population growth.’
      • ‘When dark imaginations seek images that speak to fear of contagion and plague, rats scurrying out of garbage piles and sewer holes supply a metaphor for humans.’
      • ‘The local daily never having printed the word, the contagion was spread almost exclusively among the hospital staff, in whom the disease lay latent for the month of July.’
      • ‘Indeed, the contagion is spreading across this country.’
      • ‘Drains and sewers were known in ancient Rome, and when they were employed in the nineteenth century they were highly effective in reducing contagions.’
      • ‘Deforestation and other radical ecosystem alterations also promote diseases, such as malaria and cholera, as well as new strains of existing contagions.’
      • ‘Or does the infection somehow permeate the entire environment, a contagion infecting everyone equally?’
      • ‘This contagion was spreading at an alarming rate, thanks also to the society's growing yet harmful indifference.’
      • ‘I heard that they spread their contagion through scratches made by their claws.’
      • ‘In perhaps the oddest twist of all, this most ferocious of contagions simply went away of its own accord, never (or, at least, not yet) to be seen again.’
      contamination, infection, disease, illness, infirmity, pestilence, plague, blight
      View synonyms
    2. 1.2 The spreading of a harmful idea or practice.
      ‘the contagion of disgrace’
      • ‘Other authors under consideration in this book also developed fictions that explicitly deal with political fears of cultural contagion in an age of imperialism.’
      • ‘However, stigma is much more than fear of contagion; it is also a tool used by cultures to exclude those felt to have broken extant rules.’
      • ‘As investors flew to safety, the contagion of fear spread, first to the other emerging markets, then to the equity markets of more developed nations.’
      • ‘This outrage may in fact have the opposite effect, by spreading a martyr's contagion.’
      • ‘Violence, like any contagion, will spread to new and new categories of victims, endlessly reducing the remnant of the saved until it is purified out of existence.’
      • ‘I have fretted that some journalists might take it upon themselves to spread the vile contagion of conscience.’
      • ‘He continued: ‘The danger is disorder, and in today's world it now spreads like contagion.’’
      • ‘By the 1690s, Spinoza's ideas could be found in all the bookshops, and even polemics against him served only to spread the intellectual contagion.’
      • ‘As the contagion of revolutionary ideas spread to Italy, every government, princely or republican, strove to repress it.’
      • ‘Then, in 1998, came the Russian default - and with it, fear that the contagion would spread, and economy after economy would fall ill and roll over dead.’
      • ‘Like a virus on the Internet, this contagion spreads globally, especially as bigger companies shrink their advertising budgets.’
      • ‘The weeping spread like contagion to Amma and our maid.’
      • ‘Confidence in the underlying credit market has been undermined and contagion effects are spreading into adjacent markets.’
      • ‘He would, he said, ‘abandon his best friends and join with his worst enemies,’ to prevent the contagion of French ideas spreading to Britain.’
      • ‘Fear of contagion from violence ‘up there’ became widespread.’
      • ‘Shareholders were holding their heads in horror last Thursday watching the London stock market execute a 225-point freefall as the US contagion spread into the UK.’
      • ‘The revolutionary contagion spread and the diaspora provided, at least in the American republic, a climate in which plots against the union thrived.’
      • ‘But word about the product didn't spread by contagion alone.’
      • ‘This became even clearer in 1998 as the financial contagion spread throughout the emerging world.’
      • ‘The government was alarmed by two things above all - the impact of French notions of ‘self-determination’ on Britain's Low Country client states, and the contagion of ideas.’


Late Middle English (denoting a contagious disease): from Latin contagio(n-), from con- ‘together with’ + the base of tangere ‘to touch’.