Poison vs. Venom


The terms poison and venom are often used interchangeably, but they actually have very different meanings. It is the delivery method that distinguishes one from the other.

Poison is absorbed or ingested; a poisonous animal can only deliver toxic chemicals if another animal touches or eats it. Venom, on the other hand, is always injected. Every venomous animal has a mechanism (e.g., stingers, fangs, etc.) to inject toxins directly into another animal. It is for these reasons that frogs are can be poisonous to touch or eat, while snakes are venomous when they use their fangs to bite.

Comparison chart

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Purpose Inflicts pain or illness Inflicts pain or illness
Delivery method Absorption or ingestion Injection
Form Fluid, gas or some type of solid Usually fluid

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Comments: Poison vs Venom

Anonymous comments (6)

December 2, 2011, 1:03am

This is perfect proof to my science teacher that venom and poison are different things?

— 74.✗.✗.45

October 3, 2013, 8:34am

The above definition is correct from a scientific and zoological perspective. In regards to the previous comments below:

1) The verb you are looking for is envenom or envenomate. "The spider envenoms its prey." Or "The cricket was envenomated by a spider." Both are correct.

2) In an etymological sense, venom is a subset of poison, so venom is not different than poison, but poison can be different than venom. Also venom's other primary function is defensive in nature, just like poison (e.g. platypus, lion fish, sting-ray, etc.).

3) ?

4) See 2.

— 24.✗.✗.105

May 29, 2013, 7:56pm

My friend and I have been arguing over this for about an hour now.... Once the venom has entered your body isn't it poisoning you?? Right?? It's not venoming you! They are both toxic so wouldn't that mean they are both a form o poison? Therefore the act committed would be poisoning? Somebody help???

— 75.✗.✗.57

October 3, 2012, 6:45pm

Venom is a type of poison. Poison is a broad category of a substance that can cause illness, injury, or death, especially by chemical means. Poison can be ingested, inhaled, absorbed, applied, injected, or developed in the body. Venom specifically refers to the poisonous secretions of an animal (insect, spiders, scorpions, etc.) usually transmitted by a bite or sting.

— 131.✗.✗.122

September 17, 2012, 12:19am

that's not true. Venom is different from poison, but the difference is not in the method of delivery, but rather in purpose. Venom's primary function is to assist digestion- the victim gets paralyzed, ingested and then digested. If venom is inhaled or touched (as long as there is no open wound through which venom can get into bloodstream) you will be fine. I have seen people holding venomous frogs, the ones that produce toxins on the surface of their skin; and no one was injured. You can even consume venom, and again, if you do not have a stomach sore, you might end up having diarrhea, but that is it.

Poison, on the other hand, is produced mainly as a defense tool. If one inhales or touches it, one will be, well, poisoned. It can get through you skin contact and or inhaling the air, and it can be fatal.

— 174.✗.✗.173

August 3, 2012, 4:21am

@stephen huber to bad they cant kill you.....

— 205.✗.✗.35


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