Contagious Con*ta"gious, a. [L. contagiosus: cf. F. contagieux.] 1. (Med.) Communicable by contact, by a virus, or by a bodily exhalation; catching; as, a contagious disease. [1913 Webster]

2. Conveying or generating disease; pestilential; poisonous; as, contagious air. [1913 Webster]

3. Spreading or communicable from one to another; exciting similar emotions or conduct in others. [1913 Webster]

His genius rendered his courage more contagious. --Wirt. [1913 Webster]

The spirit of imitation is contagious. --Ames.

Syn: {Contagious}, {Infectious}.

Usage: Although often used as synonyms, originally these words were used in very diverse senses; but, in general, a contagious disease has been considered as one which is caught from another by some near contact, by the breath, by bodily effluvia, etc.; while an infectious disease supposed some entirely different cause acting by a hidden influence, like the miasma of prison ships, of marshes, etc., infecting the system with disease. In either case, a pathogenic microorganism is the direct cause of the disease. ``This distinction, though not universally admitted by medical men, as to the literal meaning of the words, certainly applies to them in their figurative use. Thus we speak of the contagious influence of evil associates; their contagion of bad example, the contagion of fear, etc., when we refer to transmission by proximity or contact. On the other hand, we speak of infection by bad principles, etc., when we consider anything as diffused by some hidden influence. [1913 Webster +PJC]

The Collaborative International Dictionary of English. 2000.


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  • contagious — late 14c., from O.Fr. contagieus (Mod.Fr. contagieux), from L.L. contagiosus, from L. contagio (see CONTACT (Cf. contact)) …   Etymology dictionary

  • contagious — *infectious, communicable, catching Analogous words: toxic, pestilential, pestilent, virulent, mephitic, mias mic (see POISONOUS) …   New Dictionary of Synonyms

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  • contagious — contagiously, adv. contagiousness, contagiosity /keuhn tay jee os i tee/, n. /keuhn tay jeuhs/, adj. 1. capable of being transmitted by bodily contact with an infected person or object: contagious diseases. 2. carrying or spreading a contagious… …   Universalium

  • contagious — con•ta•gious [[t]kənˈteɪ dʒəs[/t]] adj. 1) pat capable of being transmitted by bodily contact with an infected person or object: contagious diseases[/ex] 2) pat carrying or spreading a contagious disease 3) tending to spread from person to person …   From formal English to slang

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