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As the title says, what is the difference between swollen and inflamed?

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up vote 5 down vote accepted

These words can escribe visible changes to the body:

A part of the body is swollen if it's larger than usual. This might be caused by an allergic reaction to, for example, an insect bite.

A part of the body is inflamed if it's larger than usual due to an increased blood supply caused by the body's reaction to infection. So inflamed areas look redder and feel warmer.

This is the reason for the name: inflamed implies more heat.

By analogy the word swollen could describe a river carrying a greater flow of water.

Similarly, the word inflamed is often used to describe a situation of increased severity.

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Quite so. As this NGram suggests, you're more likely to have a swollen liver, but an inflamed sore. As would be expected, given your distinction. – FumbleFingers Jul 23 '11 at 12:32
Not only body parts. We talk of a swollen river. (But not inflamed.) – GEdgar Jul 23 '11 at 13:48
True, I should add that to my answer. – pavium Jul 23 '11 at 14:09
@GEdgar: Unless that river is in Hell. For example, a story could include a passage along the lines of "...as my burning eyes rested upon the inflamed river of lost souls before my swollen feet - which was thrashing violently with the immense heat and fire it carries, occasionally splashing me with white-hot droplets of molten lava - despite intense pain, I still managed to exert an involuntary cringe against my red hot chains as I felt yet another burning stoke of the devil's thorny whip cutting deeply across my back..." – Randolf Richardson Jul 23 '11 at 16:10

The meaning of inflamed is "became reddened, swollen, hot, and often painful, especially as a reaction to injury or infection."

Swollen means " became larger or rounder in size, typically as a result of an accumulation of fluid."

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