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ABC Radio News (June 10th) reported a gunfight at an all-night art festival that took place in Trenton, New Jersey. It said:

Police say one gunman was killed, and other is in custody, seventeen other people were shot and wounded. Five people suffered non-gun-shot injuries.

Then one hour later it reported again:

One of two gunmen is dead. The other is in custody. Authorities say a total of 17 people suffered gun-shot wounds.

Cambridge online dictionary defines wound and injury as:

Wound: a damage area of the body such as a cut or hole in the skin or flesh body by a weapon.

Injury: physical harm or damage to somebody’s body caused by an accident or an attack.

Based on Cambridge dictionary, it seems that “wound” is basically associated with use of weapon, and “injury” is associated with accident (or attack which doesn’t necessarily require the use of weapons).

Though it may seem a very naïve question to most of native English speakers, I wonder what the basic difference is between “wound” and “injury” - the presence of weapons, accident, or what else?

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Injury is the more general term. When used literally, wound is specifically the cut or hole in the skin or organ, as your dictionary search demonstrates. In some cases, they can be used interchangeably. Your radio news example is probably using injury in "Five people suffered non-gun-shot injuries" because it just used "wounded" in the prior sentence and the writer wanted to avoid repetition.

You seem to be on to something re: a weapon vs. no weapon

The OED definition is:

A hurt caused by the laceration or separation of the tissues of the body by a hard or sharp instrument, a bullet, etc.; an external injury.

But, from my experiences in the surgical suite, the thing that causes the wound doesn't have to be a gun or knife for the hurt to be called a wound. It can be a fist, or even bacteria. If the integrity of the skin has been violated, or if the thing needs to be dressed, it's a wound.

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    While a wound is a form of injury that involves a break to the skin, it is possible to have a wound that was not caused by a weapon or by intent. For example, imagine tripping and falling on a piece of rebar such that it pierces or tears your skin. – tchrist Jun 23 '18 at 1:25
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    @tchrist the rebar would still (in the medical chart) be called a weapon. You don't need intent. A pressure sore can have a deep sinus, that in some cases would be called a wound (though more commonly it would be called an open sore with a sinus, or if it progresses, fistula). That's the best example I can think of for a wound not caused by a weapon. – De Novo Jun 23 '18 at 1:27
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    @tchrist, in which case (a progressing open sore), the usage would be outside the OED definition (the progression from a thing called a sore to a thing called a wound is caused by bacteria, not by a hard or sharp instrument). – De Novo Jun 23 '18 at 1:35
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    'Wound' can also be used figuratively. Such as 'I was wounded by the comment.' Of course you are likely to be adding figurative meaning to 'comment' and it would most likely be a 'barbed comment' that caused the injury. So in effect you are then talking about a weaponised comment. – Manhatton Jun 23 '18 at 13:42
  • If you define a weapon to be “anything that can cause a wound”, you have trivially circularized Yoichi’s question. By such a definition, ‘‘air’’ and ‘‘time’’ would be considered weapons. – Scott Jul 4 '18 at 5:02
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On wounds and injuries ... a lot of semantics here. In answer to your question: (you nicely provided definitions)

It seems that “wound” is basically associated with use of weapon, and “injury” is associated with an accident or attack which doesn’t necessarily require the use of weapons.

My sense is that this is not correct. A weapon is not required for either. An injury may or may not cause a wound (thus a minor injury). A wound does not cause an injury, it is usually the result of. Anything can cause an injury ... even words. Words can cause emotional injuries or "wounds" and this has nothing to do with the skin. As for the press statements, they frequently are un-revealing and evolving.

A good article here: DailyWritingTips

Injure[y] is more or less emotionally neutral, but wound suggests strong emotions of distress or anguish.

The following words are options for describing wound in the sense of a break in the flesh: lesion, cut, gash, laceration, tear, slash, graze, scratch, abrasion, bruise, and contusion.

The following words are options for wound in the context of emotional injury: insult, blow, slight offense, affront, hurt, damage, pain, distress, grief, anguish, and torment

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Sample sentences: - Police say one gunman was killed, and other is in custody, seventeen other people were shot and wounded. Five people suffered non-gun-shot injuries.

Then one hour later it reported again:

One of two gunmen is dead. The other is in custody. Authorities say a total of 17 people suffered gun-shot wounds.

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  • When you are shot with a gun, you are wounded because a wound involves the skin being pierced or otherwise opened up. In short, there is usually bleeding. The fact bleeding is involved usually calls for the word wounded. If you are stabbed, that would also be wounded.

If you break your leg, you are injured but not wounded. Many injuries of that type occur, and would not be referred to as wounds.

In general terms, any type of bodily harm can be described as an injury and if bleeding is involved the bodily harm is also a wound. Bodily harm that involves trauma to the brain or a broken bone, for instance, is not a wound. But it is an injury.

Conclusion: A wound is an injury. An injury is bodily harm. But not all bodily harm is a wound. There are all types of bodily harm (trauma, internal injuries, etc.) that do not involve piercing or opening of the skin with bleeding on the outside. We say internal injuries, and not: internal wounds.

The semantic trait difference between wound and injury is that a wound involves "piercing, cutting or breaking of the skin" whereas injury does not specifically involve that. (the metaphoric meaning of wound here is not addressed per se.)

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