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I just saw a news report in which the reporter said: "They used the term injured and not wounded". I am wondering what the difference between the two is. Is wounded used only when there is an open wound?

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7 Answers

up vote 6 down vote accepted

A quick look at my medical dictionary describes a wound as a specific type of injury, one in which skin is

torn, cut or punctured.

Wikipedia also notes that in pathology the word wound refers to

a sharp injury which damages the dermis of the skin.


So yes, I would say that one is "wounded" when there is a visible or open wound. Also, every wound is an injury, but not all injuries are wounds.

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And how many people "on the street" refer to a medical dictionary when using the words "injury" or "wound"? Very few indeed. –  Jürgen A. Erhard Jan 8 '11 at 20:38
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@jae: You mean you don't carry one with you at all times? What happens should a situation arise in which you're required to give the technical definitions of two virtually identical terms?! :) You're right, of course, the distinction in normal usage is negligible, but there is a distinction nonetheless. –  Andy F Jan 8 '11 at 20:53
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We're missing context here, but I guess the reporter talks about some military spokespeople. And in that context, well, "wounded" has a clear connotation of warfare, while "injured" sounds more civilian. "Five people were injured in the crash of the helicopter" sounds "nicer" than "Five people were wounded [...]".

It's all about the spin, baby...

Of course, without the context, I can only guess.

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I agree. Although a wound is an injury, it is usually an injury suffered in a fight of some kind, usually although not always in warfare. –  Robusto Jan 8 '11 at 20:54
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"Wounded" was commonly used to mean hurt in combat. I noticed that during Operation Desert Storm (January 1991) the media and the military stopped using "wounded" and now "injured" seems to be used exclusively for people hurt in combat. I have been wondering what brought about the change.

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As already noted, a wound is a particular type of injury, and it can be used in general parlance for that, not just for military situations (e.g. "wounded in a car crash" if we're talking about bloody gashes and the like).

"Wounded" is sometimes preferred in a military context, as previously noted. Another case where it seems to be more common is when talking about violent crime, e.g. "the shooter killed three people and wounded eight".

It's not incorrect to use "injured", so if you're not sure, choose that one.

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Most people already got it right. Just wanted to back it up with some reference.

injure [T ]

to harm yourself or sb else physically, especially in an accident

He injured his knee playing hockey. Three people were killed and five injured in the crash. She injured herself during training.

wound [T, often passive] (rather formal)

to injure part of the body, especially by making a hole in the skin using a weapon

He was wounded in the arm.

About 50 people were seriously wounded in the attack.

Wound is often used to talk about people being hurt in war or in other attacks which affect a lot of people.

Oxford Learner’s Thesaurus © Oxford University Press, 2008.

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This has totally been a sore spot for me. As a reporter, I was taught that a wound is an intentional assault on a person, for example, a gunshot, a terrorist attack, a knife attack.

An injury on the other hand is unintentional. A car accident or a fall might qualify. If a gunman opens fire in a bar, then the people who were hit were wounded, not injured. If they fell in trying to escape, but not hit by gunfire, they were injured.

That's my thought on the subject.

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Essentially, an "injury" is accidental; a "wound" is intentional.

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Maybe if you can source that I will buy it. –  virmaior Feb 11 at 0:48
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