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What is a word (possibly an adjective) for something that spreads (perhaps rapidly)? This would refer to a virus but without the obvious bad connotation.

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Most things that spread are bad: fire, disease, floodwaters... What context do you need this word for? The more information you can provide, the better we can answer. (Also, without more context, this is in danger of being closed as "not a real question", because some of the Powers-That-Be are severely allergic to single-word-requests.) –  Marthaª Jan 18 '12 at 21:41
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Why do you not want it to have bad connotations? Have you checked the thesaurus for spread? Any reason any of the nouns there are not to you liking? –  Matt Эллен Jan 18 '12 at 21:42
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Please make it more clear. In what context will you use it? –  Mustafa Jan 18 '12 at 21:47
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From the headline, I thought you were asking for one of these. I think this question falls under general reference... –  Gnawme Jan 18 '12 at 21:49
    
It's sort of for a social project, I think I'm going to go with "Expand" (although words in that direction would be welcome) –  Asaf Jan 18 '12 at 21:59
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5 Answers

up vote 9 down vote accepted

The term Viral has been co-opted and is no longer considered only a bad connotation. The phrase going viral is generally considered a good thing(unless you are the one being embarrassed in the video or ad)

quickly and widely spread or popularized especially by person-to-person electronic communication

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Infectious is my one-word answer.

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Surely this has the same bad connotations as virus? The question asks for something without obvious bad connotations. –  Matt Эллен Jan 18 '12 at 21:43
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Not necessarily. We often speak of someone's enthusiasm or happiness being contagious or infectious. –  alcas Jan 18 '12 at 22:00
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@Matt: both 'viral' and 'infectious' are weaker and not terribly negative (if at all) in contexts other than disease. 'infectious humor' and alcas's examples. –  Mitch Jan 18 '12 at 22:17
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I'm guessing that it's not absolutely essential to emphasise the "spatial" connotations of spread, though they're often present by implication in my offerings anyway.

I'm also guessing that the thing itself at least in part produces it's own momentum causing it to spread - we're talking more about something like a virus that spreads itself, rather than something like plaster being spread on a wall by a tradesman.

The process of spreading is proliferation. The adjective prolific is normally used of something that has already spread, but if OP doesn't mind sounding a bit "erudite", he can use proliferatory to describe something which has the potential to spread, even if it hasn't actually done so yet.

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Propagate, "To cause to ... multiply by generation" or "To cause to spread to extend" (sic) or "To spread from person to person..." may serve. Also see its synonyms that include disperse, disseminate, spread.

Adjective epidemic means "Like or having to do with an epidemic; widespread", eg "Epidemic hysteria occurred upon the incumbent’s reelection."

Comment: Propagate and its synonyms mentioned above are verbs. If you want other word forms, clarify the question and indicate if you are looking for words to be used as spreading, growing, burgeoning would be used, or as ductile, malleable, miscible would be used, etc.

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Pervasive.

pervade, verb [ with obj. ] (esp. of a smell) spread through and be perceived in every part of: a smell of stale cabbage pervaded the air.

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Always cite your sources. –  Kris Nov 9 '13 at 11:00
    
Something that is pervasive has already spread. A pervasive virus is not the same as a virus that spreads quickly. –  Janus Bahs Jacquet Nov 10 '13 at 0:54
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