con·​ta·​gion | \ kən-ˈtā-jən How to pronounce contagion (audio) \

Definition of contagion

1a : a contagious disease
b : the transmission of a disease by direct or indirect contact
c : a disease-producing agent (such as a virus)
2a : poison
b : contagious influence, quality, or nature
c : corrupting influence or contact
3a : rapid communication of an influence (such as a doctrine or emotional state)
b : an influence that spreads rapidly

Examples of contagion in a Sentence

a disease that spreads by contagion People have been warned to keep out of the area to avoid contagion.
Recent Examples on the Web As the contagion tightens its grip on Mumbai’s slums, many wealthier residents are determined to stay away from slum dwellers. Atul Loke, New York Times, "India’s ‘Maximum City’ Engulfed by Coronavirus," 14 May 2020 His wife, Jill, left at home in Atlanta, where Henry works for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, observes that the contagion has destroyed any sense of community that once existed. Sophie Gilbert, The Atlantic, "The Strange Comfort of Reading a Pandemic Novel," 13 May 2020 Mark Denison began hunting for a drug to treat COVID-19 almost a decade before the contagion, driven by a novel coronavirus, devastated the world this year. Michael Waldholz, Scientific American, "Three Ways to Make Coronavirus Drugs in a Hurry," 12 May 2020 The dividing line traced by roadblocks also is tugging on sensitivities about birthrights and inequities, as Native American visitors worry about the social stigma of being locked out because of the contagion. Morgan Lee, Anchorage Daily News, "New Mexico town near vast Navajo reservation shuts everyone out during pandemic," 8 May 2020 Exxon Mobil posted its first loss in at least 32 years while Chevron deepened spending cuts amid the economic and industrial devastation wrought by the Covid-19 contagion. Bloomberg Wire, Dallas News, "Exxon Mobil posts first loss in 32 years and the worst might be yet to come," 1 May 2020 As the number of coronavirus infections globally exceeds 3 million, the pressure is growing to come up with solutions to the contagion. John Lauerman, Fortune, "In race to make a coronavirus vaccine, AstraZeneca joins forces with Oxford University," 30 Apr. 2020 The contagion spread around the Pacific and then the globe. Tim Fernholz, Quartz, "Why the US government isn’t making health a priority in its coronavirus response," 21 Apr. 2020 For years, many have sought to isolate the contagion of populism. Corey Robin, The New York Review of Books, "What People Power Looks Like in a Pandemic Democracy," 13 Apr. 2020

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'contagion.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

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First Known Use of contagion

14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1a

History and Etymology for contagion

Middle English contagioun, borrowed from Anglo-French & Latin; Anglo-French contagiun, borrowed from Latin contāgiōn, contāgiō "contact, contact resulting in disease, infection, pollution," from contag-, variant stem of contingere "to be in contact with, arrive at, affect, fall to one's lot" + -iōn-, -iō, suffix of action nouns formed from compound verbs — more at contingent entry 1

Note: The vowel length in contāgiō is unexpected and difficult to explain; a similarly lengthened vowel is found in other deverbal derivatives with -ag- as a second member (compāgēs "bond, joint," from pangere, ambāgēs "circuitous path," from agere; see agent, pact).

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Time Traveler for contagion

Time Traveler

The first known use of contagion was in the 14th century

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Statistics for contagion

Last Updated

18 May 2020

Cite this Entry

“Contagion.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 28 May. 2020.

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More Definitions for contagion


How to pronounce contagion (audio)

English Language Learners Definition of contagion

: the process by which a disease is passed from one person or animal to another by touching
: a disease that can be passed from one person or animal to another by touching : a contagious disease


con·​ta·​gion | \ kən-ˈtā-jən How to pronounce contagion (audio) \

Kids Definition of contagion

1 : the passing of a disease from one individual to another as a result of some contact between them
2 : a contagious disease


con·​ta·​gion | \ kən-ˈtā-jən How to pronounce contagion (audio) \

Medical Definition of contagion

1 : the transmission of a disease by direct or indirect contact
3 : a disease-producing agent (as a virus)

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