I recently was attempting to describe someone's smile. I wanted to describe it as being very 'infectious', or that it spreads very quickly and is contagious. However, as hard as I could try, I could only come up with words that have to do with infections or words that have a negative connotation.

How could I describe a person's smile if it has the ability to 'spread' to other people, as denoted above?


  • 10
    Infectious smile is the idiomatic way to say it, and has no negative connotations whatsoever. Take a look at this ngram. I threw "wicked grin" in there to show some relativity. Interestingly "infectious smile" was used more often than "wicked grin" berween the 1920s and the late 70s. What does that say about society then and now?
    – Jim
    Mar 29 '15 at 17:18
  • 2
    Isn't "viral" the new "infectious"?
    – Hot Licks
    Mar 29 '15 at 17:47
  • 3
    @HotLicks But a viral smile sounds enough to make most decent people run for cover.
    – WS2
    Mar 29 '15 at 20:53
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    I fully agree with Jim that 'infectious smile' is idiomatic -- it is an established, widely used and widely recognized phrase, and carries only positive connotations for native speakers and anybody else who knows their English. Jun 1 '17 at 11:54

Looking for a word with a more positive connotation than “infectious”

Their smile was,

irresistible adjective: too attractive and tempting to be resisted. "he found the delicious-looking cakes irresistible"

synonyms: enticing, tempting, alluring, inviting, seductive; Google irresistible

it was,

captivating adjective: captivating capable of attracting and holding interest; charming. "a captivating smile"; Google captivating


engaging adjective: charming and attractive. "Sophie had a sunny personality that was very engaging"

synonyms: charming, appealing, attractive, pretty, delightful, lovely, pleasing; Google engaging

All these adjectives are so familiar as to be clichés, so a phrase,

Their smile was like a tune you couldn't stop humming.


Infectious and contagious are very commonly used for this purpose, and no one really seems to object. If it really bothers you, you could say:

"He has a winning smile" - which means his smile 'wins people over', or, makes them feel happy too. (US)

  • and "winsome", too.
    – user98990
    Mar 29 '15 at 16:22
  • @LittleEva, though it should be noted that winsome has nothing to do with victory.
    – Anonym
    Mar 29 '15 at 16:50
  • @Anonym - true, that. Often used to describe an attractive smile, personality, etc.
    – user98990
    Mar 29 '15 at 16:53

"Contagious smile" and "infectious smiles" are very strong collocations which have a positive connotation. I don't think we really have much choice but to use these expressions when describing an amazing smile that makes others smile, too.

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    This is a comment, not an answer, as it doesn't give alternatives other than those in OP. Mar 30 '15 at 0:20

His smile was like barbecue sauce- it wound up on everyone's face.

  • Not a single word, but worthy of an upvote or two. Mar 30 '15 at 0:21

You could say someone has a catchy smile, like this cheerleader:

catchy smile

I shot some Cheerleaders for a fashion Catalog.....she is such a beauty, isn't she?

catchy smile

Or, this baby

I've been begging for a genuine smile from Daniel. Today my daughter Christine sent me some photos in an email. Now that's a genuine smile and it's catchy because it has caused me to smile the biggest smile of all. Thanks Christine.

enter image description here


It could be described as a charismatic smile.

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