Scientists Say: Venomous

When animals have to inject their poisons, they are described using a special word


This rattlesnake can inject poison when it bites, which makes it venomous. 


Venomous (adjective, “VEH-nom-us”)

This word describes animals that inject a poison. They may bite or sting. But they have to inject that toxin.

In a sentence

Scientists are using the venom from tarantulas to fight disease.

poison vs venomous
What’s the difference between poisonous and venomous? This cartoon explains. Rosemary Mosco/

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Power Words

(for more about Power Words, click here)

poison  A substance that causes sickness or death to an organism.

poisonous  (In biology) An organism that secretes a toxic substance passively. Plants can be poisonous, as can animals that secrete toxins through their skin.

toxic    Poisonous or able to harm or kill cells, tissues or whole organisms. The measure of risk posed by such a poison is its toxicity.

toxin     A poison produced by living organisms, such as germs, bees, spiders, poison ivy and snakes.

venom    A poisonous secretion of an animal, such as a snake, spider or scorpion, usually transmitted by a bite or sting.

Bethany Brookshire was a longtime staff writer at Science News Explores and is the author of the book Pests: How Humans Create Animal Villains. She has a Ph.D. in physiology and pharmacology and likes to write about neuroscience, biology, climate and more. She thinks Porgs are an invasive species.

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