Deadly or mortal venom

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Senior Member
Persian (Farsi)
Hi there
I would appreciate it if someone could let me know which one of the adjectives used in my self made sentences sounds more idiomatic and then please let me know if they are natural or not?
- This snake’s venom is very deadly.
- This snake’s venom is very mortal.
I would be rally thankful in they do not sound natural to your ear, then let me know how shall I indicate the same message in English?
  • Thomas Tompion

    Senior Member
    English - England
    I wouldn't say of a venom that it was very mortal, because death is indivisible, but I don't share other people's dislike of mortal venom, though the ngrams suggest that the phrase is not as popular as it used to be.

    It was used occasionally by famous writers:

    To shrew is to wish one to be struck as with the mortal venom of a shrew-mouse - Walt Whitman

    ...,like a breath-blown dart

    Shot sudden from an Indian's hollow cane,

    With mortal venom fraught, and fiery pain - Thomas Hood.

    Here's a more modern example:

    Fidel Castro has stated that drugs are a “mortal venom for our youth and people,” and this sentiment is widely echoed in the populace. (source)

    Then, of course, there's the asp in Shakespeare's Antony and Cleopatra, whose 'biting is immortal'.
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    Hermione Golightly

    Senior Member
    British English
    I'm aurprised 'mortal' has even been suggested. The usual query is about 'fatal' and 'deadly'. Using mortal like this sounds extremely odd to me.

    I agree of course with TT about not using very or any quantifier with any of these words. You can't be more dead than dead.


    Senior Member
    German/English bilingual
    You can't be more dead than dead.
    That's true enough, but you can be more or less deadly. A poison can be more or less effective at killing you.
    That said, very before mortal, fatal, lethal, and even deadly, still looks weird (but less so with deadly than the others).

    So what should we say when we want to quantify a venom's deadliness?
    We could say that this venom is highly poisonous, but that's rather tautological, given that venom is a poison.
    After all, some snake-bites will kill you stone-dead ;) on the spot, while others may only take you out of action for a short while and you'll be as right as rain before long.


    Senior Member
    English - US
    If the venom is mortal, it sounds like the venom can die. Even though meaning 5 for mortal in the Word Reference dictionary is "causing or liable to cause death; fatal: a mortal wound," meaning 1 is "that will suffer death: mortal creatures." If we're not familiar with the collocation (like "mortal wound"), the first meaning is more likely to occur to us before the fifth meaning.

    I was just watching the episode of Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events which features the Incredibly Deadly Viper. It didn't bother me at all to hear "deadly" qualified.
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