Is there a there more positive sounding word to use in place of 'viral' or 'contagious', in regard to an idea or campaign?

The campaign relates to women's safety issues and sexual harassment.

We want the empowering message to be 'contagious', go 'viral', 'spread'.

All these words relate to sickness though. The campaign is one of social healing, so words like 'viral', and 'contagious' don't sound right. 'Spread' is better.

Any other suggestions?

  • 4
    I wouldn't use contagious in your setting indeed, but I really do think the word 'viral' sounds better in your context and will be better understood than 'snowball'. Mar 25, 2015 at 15:33
  • 2
    "Viral" has seen a lot of use lately specifically referring to the behaviour that you're attempting to describe. While it may have had negative connotations in the past, I don't think anyone (that hasn't been living under a rock) would object to its use. Mar 25, 2015 at 19:09

10 Answers 10



1.1 Develop rapidly and successfully:


  • 1
    I like both flourish and burgeon, but flourish seems more "positive" to my ear.
    – Good A.M.
    Mar 25, 2015 at 1:19


[NO OBJECT] Increase rapidly in size, intensity, or importance:

"the campaign was snowballing"


  • 1
    While this has a similar meaning, I think the connotation is wrong for the situation. Something becoming more widespread does not fit the idea of snowballing, IMO.
    – Cat
    Mar 25, 2015 at 19:37



[NO OBJECT] (often as adjective burgeoning)
1 Begin to grow or increase rapidly; flourish:


The etymology of burgeon suggest new life:

early 14c., "grow, sprout, blossom,"
from Anglo-French burjuner, Old French borjoner "to bud, sprout,"
from borjon "a bud, shoot, pimple" (Modern French bourgeon), of uncertain origin.
Perhaps from Vulgar Latin *burrionem (nominative *burrio),
from Late Latin burra "flock of wool," itself of uncertain origin.
Some sources (Kitchin, Gamillscheg) say either the French word or the Vulgar Latin one is from Germanic.
The English verb is perhaps instead a native development from burjoin (n.) "a bud" (c.1300), from Old French.

Our campaign is burgeoning!


From Wiktionary:

The idea :

  • is propagated ...

    2.(transitive) To cause to spread to extend; to impel or continue forward in space; as, to propagate sound or light.

    3.(transitive) To spread from person to person; to extend the knowledge of; to originate and spread; to carry from place to place; to disseminate

    5.(transitive) To generate; to produce.

  • is disseminated ...

    1.(transitive) To sow and scatter principles, ideas, opinions, and errors for growth and propagation, such as seed

  • is communicated ...

    1.To impart 1.(transitive) To impart or transmit (information or knowledge) to someone; to make known, to tell.

    2.To Share 4.(intransitive) To express or convey ideas, either through verbal or nonverbal means; to have intercourse, to exchange information.

  • broadcasts ...

    1.​cast or scattered widely, in all directions

  • gives out ...

    1.(transitive) to utter, publish; to announce, proclaim, report.

The campaign is :

  • spreading like wild fire that ...

    Fig. [for something] to spread rapidly.

    Disseminate or circulate very quickly.

    Quickly affects or becomes known by more and more people

  • publicising the idea that ...

    1.(transitive) To make widely known to the public.

  • letting out the idea that ...

    1.To release.

  • -1 for wildfire. Mar 25, 2015 at 13:52
  • Hey let's argue !
    – Yohann V.
    Mar 25, 2015 at 13:57


(Not much better than viral, but it means essentially the same thing.)

  • Good cross-pollination, @Parthian Shot!
    – ScotM
    Mar 25, 2015 at 1:30

Thrive, Flourish, Bloom come to mind.

All of them refer to something developing swiftly/vigorously and in a healthy manner.


There is nothing negative about the term viral when the context is music, communication or the Internet. When a YouTube video goes "viral" it just means it has attracted a huge number of visits in a very brief period of time. Nobody turns their noses up at a viral piece of information; on the contrary, when a video or advertisement is said to be viral that in itself will attract even more visits.

A campaign that has become viral on Twitter, is a successful campaign.

  • Exactly what I was going to say. I can see how one may have second thoughts in this particular case, since it's a campaign about sexual health (and thereby, implicitly, also viruses); but I would still have no qualms about using it. Mar 25, 2015 at 18:17

At this point, my impression is that the metaphorical use of "viral" has become so widespread that it doesn't really carry negative connotations from its literal meaning. Nevertheless, when you're talking about a message or idea, rather than a fad or funny video, I'd say you want your idea to catch on:

to become popular: this idea has already caught on




increasingly rapid


Resonate means that a sound gets stronger and stronger as it echoes. It is often used to describe ideas that people like and spread.

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