According to the definition of Oxford Online Dictionary, the adjective heavy means:

  1. Of more than the usual size, amount, or intensity 4. Very important or serious

If someone is heavily wounded, can I say he has a heavy wound? If not, how should the wound be described?

  • 17
    Severe is probably more idiomatic.
    – Hot Licks
    Commented Jul 18, 2016 at 11:25
  • 6
    Gravely wounded is also more idiomatic.
    – J...
    Commented Jul 18, 2016 at 17:12
  • Singular versus plural may make a difference here. "Heavy wounds" (pl.) sounds much better to me than "heavy wound" (sing.).
    – R.M.
    Commented Jul 18, 2016 at 17:37
  • grave is just the Latinate version of heavy - in this context they are completely interchangeable.
    – OrangeDog
    Commented Jul 19, 2016 at 10:18
  • 1
    @OrangeDog: While that may be true linguistically, it is not so idiomatically. Commented Jul 19, 2016 at 13:42

8 Answers 8


I would suggest a deep (if applicable) or serious wound.

enter image description here

EDIT: I wasn't sure about the Ngram link to I attached it as picture, it can be clicked and enlarged. The original ngram is over here: Google Ngram Link for the statistic

  • You can click on it to enlarge it. I also added the link directly to the ngram.
    – Helmar
    Commented Jul 18, 2016 at 11:36
  • 2
    And note that deep, fatal, mortal, deadly, lethal, et al describe a characteristic of the wound, rather than it's apparent severity. It's possible to be fatally wounded with no visible wound.
    – Hot Licks
    Commented Jul 18, 2016 at 12:25
  • 1
    High-five for the N-gram search! Way to back up your answer with statistics
    – jpaugh
    Commented Jul 18, 2016 at 15:54
  • 1
    @HotLicks Actually, a wound almost always refers to an --- at least partially --- external injury. I've never heard a strictly internal injury ("internal bleeding" for example) called a wound; fatally injured would communicate better in that case.
    – jpaugh
    Commented Jul 18, 2016 at 15:56
  • 8
    One must be careful, also, with phrasing - "deeply wounded", for example, while a common expression, is most likely to be interpreted as referring to an emotional rather than a physical wound. "Gravely wounded", by contrast, is by far more strongly associated with physical injury.
    – J...
    Commented Jul 18, 2016 at 17:15

Yes, you can describe a wound as "heavy." Google Ngram shows hundreds of examples of "heavy" being used to describe "wound" this way. In fact, there's even an English proverb that says, "A light hand makes a heavy wound." It figuratively refers to the devastation a woman can wreak on a man's heart.

Some examples (emphasis added):

From Crime on the Solent:

I noted the difficulty of accounting for a heavy wound at the back of the head when the man must have been pitched forward, but I supposed it just must have happened.

From The American Mediterranean:

During the fighting he suffered a heavy wound in the chest caused by a bullet fired from close range.

From Hearst's International Combined with Cosmopolitan, Volume 87:

Although the neck arteries and the eyes are protected, it is quite easy and usual for a severe and heavy wound to be inflicted — a wound such as I had just seen.

From Mexican Life: Mexico's Monthly Review, Volume 41:

In contrast, the shot in the thigh had caused a heavy wound.

From The Golden Rule and Odd-fellows Family Companion: Popular Literature, Instruction and Amusement, Volume 6:

The shot inflicted a heavy wound, but not a fatal one...

  • 8
    I'd like to point out that the OP asked if you can say "heavy wound", and the answer to that question is "Yes, you can". If the question was should I say "heavy wound", then the answer is "Probably not, since it's not a common usage". Yes, there are examples of people saying it, and I think most people would know what you mean. But it's much less idiomatic then "deep" or "serious" (as the ngram graph shows). Commented Jul 18, 2016 at 12:05
  • 8
    Per this NGram, a heavy wound virtually flatlines against a serious wound. And if you remove the latter so you can see the "shape" of the usage trend, it's pretty obvious the former is in terminal decline (perhaps mainly kept alive at all by contexts citing the old proverb). Cutting to the chase, it's not a "current natural English" usage. Commented Jul 18, 2016 at 12:40

"Heavy" shouldn't be used as an adjective for the wound, since "heavily" is an adverb meaning "to a large or serious degree". "heavy" and "heavily" are actually completely seperate words, with an obvious shared root.


You would most commonly describe the wound as "serious" or "very serious", with the latter adding some extra urgency.

The adjective "mortal" can be applied to a wound which leads to the death of the recipient, although this is obviously only used after the person has died (otherwise you're being rather presumptious). It's also perhaps a little archaic. It;s also most commonly used in its adverb form of "mortally", ie "the patient was mortally wounded in the car accident".

  • Hello, Max. I think your first sentence is a little confusing. Are you referring to "heavy" when you used "it" in "since it's an adverb meaning..."
    – user140086
    Commented Jul 18, 2016 at 9:24
  • Wouldn't it be better if you said "Heavy is not broadly used as an adjective before wound" or something else to the effect? I think it is used.
    – user140086
    Commented Jul 18, 2016 at 9:46
  • You can find uses of it, I just looked, but most of them seem to be either from Russian websites, or it's used as part of a larger phrase like "heavy wound dressing", where heavy is actually applying to the dressing more than the wound, I think. Some other people on the internet doing something doesn't make it "advisable", but I'll change "can't" to "shouldn't". Commented Jul 18, 2016 at 10:10
  • @MaxWilliams I also find 'heavy wound' unusual - but have you looked at the 'examples' linked from the first line of Benjamin Harman's answer? Could there be a UK/US difference?
    – TrevorD
    Commented Jul 18, 2016 at 10:12
  • 1
    @alephzero - "Heavy wound" is acceptable. I have provided an abundance of examples in the comments of my response. Since TrevorD suggests that the first examples of "heavy wound" don't specifically pertain to the human body, I included a number of examples used in myriad published works at the end that absolutely do.
    – user184292
    Commented Jul 18, 2016 at 11:43

Some more Ngrams if you already haven't had enough: "adjective + wound"

enter image description here

It's certainly possible to use 'heavy + wound'. Are there worse options? Yes. Are there better options? I would say yes, because 'heavy' is sort of a vague descriptor for a 'wound'. It's the most idiomatic of the options to be sure. But 'he has a heavy wound' just doesn't sound as natural as the other options, for whatever reason. "He's heavily wounded" is perfectly fine, however.

The problem with 'heavy', in my opinion, is that it doesn't conflate well when you think about the the use of 'heavy' with mental stress or injury, as opposed to physical. For example:

"He has a heavy burden to bear."

"The recent breakup loomed heavy on his mind."

Or the phrase heavy heart: thesaurus.com

For this reason, using 'heavy' as an idiomatic expression to describe a physical wound doesn't work out as well as if it were a mental wound.


While you can say "heavy wound," as a native speaker I've never heard it used that way except poetically, archiacally, or in relation to an emotional rather than literal wound. In contrast, "heavily wounded" is idiomatic. Odd, but language is odd.

Note that if someone is heavily wounded, it doesn't necessarily mean that there is one "heavy" wound. When I hear "heavily wounded," I think of someone with a number of wounds, probably of varying degrees, some of which are non-trivial. It can be just one big wound, but that's not the first impression I'd have.

For an individual "heavy" wound, I'd use serious wound or severe wound (I'd've said "or major wound," but Ngram doesn't seem to back that up). Ngram suggests that severe was the term of choice for some time, but that serious is on par with it in modern times:

enter image description here


It depends on the register you're writing in. If it's relatively informal or conversational, then 'heavy wound' is likely to come across as an error.

For a very elaborate, literary style, it may be more appropriate, but in any case I would use it with caution.

Possible alternatives include:

  • Serious
  • Grievous
  • Life-threatening
  • Deep

A wound can be addressed as a heavy wound. It means a very deep or life-threatening injury.

We can also address a wound as:

  1. a fatal wound

    One of the heads of the beast seemed to have had a fatal wound, but the fatal wound had been healed. The whole world was filled with wonder and followed the beast.

  2. a mortal wound

    One of its heads seemed to have a mortal wound, but its mortal wound was healed, and the whole earth marveled as they followed the beast.

  3. a deadly wound or wounded to death

    And I saw one of his heads as it were wounded to death; and his deadly wound was healed: and all the world wondered after the beast.

  4. a lethal(sufficient to cause death) wound

    One of the beast's heads appeared to have been killed, but the lethal wound had been healed. And the whole world followed the beast in amazement.

Source: http://biblehub.com/revelation/13-3.htm

Hope this helps you out.

  • Your answer states that "A wound can be address[ed] as a heavy wound" - but you've provided nothing to substantiate that. You've then stated "according to me" - which clearly indicates that this is mere personal opinion. Your block example sentences appear to be quoted from elsewhere - please identify your sources.
    – TrevorD
    Commented Jul 18, 2016 at 10:45
  • Please indicate your source for your definition of "heavy wound". Thank you for adding the source for your quotations - but looking at them further, some of them appear to be using rather 'old fashioned language' such as "One of the ... heads appeared to have been killed"; "wounded to death"; "fatal/mortal wound ... healed". Hence they are hardly suitable representative examples for modern usage.
    – TrevorD
    Commented Jul 18, 2016 at 11:18
  • @TrevorD.I have not copied the definition of "heavy wound" from anywhere. I have written it myself.
    – Kirti
    Commented Jul 18, 2016 at 11:27
  • Thanks for the response. But writing your own definition does not provide any substantiation that usage of the term is currently common & acceptable.
    – TrevorD
    Commented Jul 18, 2016 at 11:56

Dungeons and Dragons vocabulary to the rescue!
As far as "Cure" magic goes in Dungeons and Dragons, the progression is:

  • Minor Wound
  • Light Wound
  • Moderate Wound
  • Serious Wound
  • Critical Wound

This is the scale I'd use.

http://www.d20srd.org/indexes/spells.htm (under "C" for "Cure" spells)

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