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This article is about the zombies in the series. You may be looking for Notable Zombies.

"You all know how this shit works. You get a bite, you get any kind of wound from these things, something from them gets in you... and you fucking die."
Negan to the Saviors about the zombies[src]

Zombies, mostly referred to in-universe as walkers, roamers, lurkers, biters, monsters, empties, eaters, decays, infected, muertos, groaners, cannibals, and jiāngshī, are an antagonistic force that serve as the primary catalyst for the events within The Walking Dead universe. They serve as universal antagonists.

Etymology & Definition


The English word "zombie" is first recorded in 1819, in a history of Brazil by the poet Robert Southey, in the form of "zombi." The Oxford English Dictionary gives the origin of the word as West African, and compares it to the Kongo words "nzambi" (god) and "zumbi" (fetish).

For more details, read Zombie on Wikipedia.


Zombie: The reanimated corpse of a human being that has regained limited function and mobility, as well as developed an insatiable hunger for flesh.


Reanimated human beings, while not immortal, will not "die" under typical conditions that would ordinarily cause the death of a living person. They do not appear to feel or respond to pain, can survive even the most brutal injuries, and despite their bottomless appetite for flesh, they do not need food, water, or sleep to function.

They show no other bodily function that relates to a human, showing no signs of self-healing or response to extreme temperatures. The brain maintains limited abilities of the body, allowing for movement of the limbs (provided that they are not decomposed to the point where the bones are not strong enough to bend without breaking), jaws, neck, and even the use of its sensory systems. While the walkers are notoriously weaker than humans, the only way to kill one is to destroy the brain. Despite severely weakened frames, they will continue to hunt for living animals to consume. Even when decapitated, the head will remain active, even though it would be practically harmless at such point.


While the term "zombie" does exist within The Walking Dead universe, it is seldom used. In the Comic Series, when Rick Grimes' group discover the prison, both Rick and Tyreese discuss how it still sounds funny to use the word "zombie." Likewise, in the Telltale video game, the term is used very rarely.[1]

"Zombie" has not been used in the TV series; when interviewed, Lauren Cohan stated that Romero movie zombies never existed in the popular fiction of the TV Walking Dead universe.[2] The characters within The Walking Dead TV series and comic books come up with their own monikers and categorizations for the undead.

The term "zombie" originated with the Haitian practice of voodoo and refers to a person who is reanimated as a slave in the thrall of another person. Those zombies are still clinically alive and can be restored, where the "walkers" of The Walking Dead are in fact dead, presumably not under any control, and cannot be restored.


"Walker" is a term for a member of the legions of the mobile deceased, who have come to dominate the world following the outbreak of the contagion that spawned them. This is the term used most frequently by Rick Grimes' and Lee Everett's respective groups of survivors, and to refer to reanimated corpses who are not dormant.


Roamers are known to "roam" around looking for food. They are the most commonly encountered type of zombies. The term "roamer" is used most frequently in the Comic Series.


Lurkers are the zombies that just sit around playing "dead" until something approaches them and then bite. Lurkers can be the real threat because they can appear to be a dead corpse. One of them was responsible for Allen's death. In the TV Series, Hershel Greene had his leg bitten by a lurker and Rick had to amputate it so he could survive. Oftentimes, lurkers have suffered some type of major injury or are otherwise in some kind of a weakened state, preventing them from walking around. The term "lurker" is used most frequently in the Comic Series and Video Game. The term "lurkers" is also used by some in Woodbury, Georgia.


As described by Eugene Porter in the comic book, a herd is when a group of Walkers acts with a mob mentality. One zombie might brush his hand on a door knob, and another will see this and mistake it as an attempt to get in. Then he will beat on the door to get in, and the first zombie will see this and try to get in. This will spark a chain reaction. An example of this is in the start of the Season 2 finale where a zombie sees a helicopter and follows it to Hershel's farm.[3]


Alice Warren, Dr. Stevens' assistant in Woodbury, mentioned that her original group of survivors referred to the zombies as "biters", because, while some do lurk or roam, they will all bite, so to classify them into separate groups was considered a silly practice. "Biters" is what Woodbury call the zombies, as seen in the novel, comic, and TV series, as well as Martinez's group.


Floaters are zombies that became bloated after spending a long period of time in the water. One was first encountered by the survivors at the Greene family farm in the TV series where it was found trapped in a well. Fearing that shooting the floater might result in polluting the well, the survivors decide to pull it out. This proves to be futile as it gets stuck on the lip and splits in half, the bottom part of its body (and most of its innards) falling back into the well.


The term "lame-brains" was first used in the TV episode "Nebraska" by Dave and Tony, strangers that walk in the local bar not far from the Hershel's farm. It seems to be a broad category for all zombies, equivalent to the term "walkers".


In the TV Series, Daryl Dixon, Theodore "T-Dog" Douglas, Shane Walsh, and Glenn Rhee have been known to call zombies "geeks." This name is also used by Molly from the Video Game. She says she calls them geeks because, just like carnival geeks, they will eat anything. This name is not used in the Comic Series. More recently however, the term has been abandoned.


In the video game, Chet, Clementine, Alvin Jr., and Brenda St. John call the zombies, "monsters". Rick also calls the zombies "monsters" once in the comic series. In "When the Dead Come Knocking", when Milton and Andrea wait for Michael Coleman to turn, she realizes that Milton has never seen a loved one turn into a walker and says: "There is no unconscious mind, Milton. When they turn, they become monsters, that's all. Whatever they once were is gone."

Meat Puppets

This name is used by a Savior. Since he is part of the Saviors, it is presumed that the nickname is a common one amongst the group. The name most likely originated from the fact that the zombies' intelligence levels are very low, so they are just considered mindless puppets of meat.


When Paul Monroe was saved by Abraham Ford and Michonne as he was sleeping in an abandoned car, he used the name "empties" to refer to the zombies that were trying to get into the car.

It is also the main term that is used in The Walking Dead: World Beyond.


The name was used by Albert as he panics after eating Dale's leg, whom was bitten. The term is also used in the Video Game by Andrew St. John when recalling them getting caught on the electric fence surrounding the St. John's Dairy Farm. Sam used this term in "Indifference" while in conversation with Rick and Carol Peletier. Also used by Negan in Issue 165.


The name is used by Merle Dixon in "Walk With Me". Merle uses this term when he is about to kill multiple walkers.


This name is used when Dale Horvath and T-Dog encounter a bloated zombie trapped in the depths of a well while living at Hershel's farm. The exact quote is "Looks like we've got us a swimmer." The term is also used by Lilly Caul, for the zombies underneath the flood.

Dead Ones

This is used several times to describe a group of zombies.


This term is used by Daryl Dixon to describe the zombies during the earlier stages of the outbreak in The Walking Dead: Survival Instinct.


This term is used by Tyreese in the Comic Series while talking to Rick about how he fears more the living than the "half-rotten ghoul trying to eat my flesh." Carley from the Video Game also determinately calls them this when Lee asks if Doug saved her. During Survival Instinct, Kessler says that he locked himself up from the "damn ghouls".


This name is used by Daryl in Survival Instinct, during his talk with a cop called Jimmy Blake, who is hiding in a shelter on the roof of a building.


This term, though not said as much, is used describing unseen or roaming walkers.


Used by Merle in the Survival Instinct game.


Used by Chuck in the Video Game.


In Survival Instinct, the remaining Survivors in Oakview calls the zombies "Goons".


In The Walking Dead Webisodes: The Oath, Karina calls the zombies "Decays".


Used in The Walking Dead Webisodes: The Oath, a small horde is called a "swarm" by Paul and Karina. The Commonwealth soldiers used this term as well.

Walking Bodies

Gale Macones, in The Walking Dead Webisodes: The Oath, calls the undead, "walking bodies".

Walking Corpses

Is used often in The Walking Dead Social Game: Chronicles and is frequently used by Harlan.


Used to describe the undead by Sam and Ana in The Walking Dead season 4, episode 4 "Indifference".[4]

The Infected

Used by the U.S. Military and CDC personnel such as Dr. Edwin Jenner as a blanket statement for all zombies, as well as all human beings believed to be contaminated by the zombie pathogen. Also used by the survivors in Fear the Walking Dead.


Used by Magna's Group as they are traveling through the woods, prior to being swarmed by a massive herd guided by Paul, Eugene, Rosita Espinosa, Aaron, and other herd wranglers by accident.


A term, more of a metaphor, used by Jane. When escaping from a crowd of walkers, she disables a walkers jaw and pushes through the herd with this walker, referring to it as a cow-catcher as it works just like a real life cow-catcher.


Used by members of the Atlanta Police Department at Grady Memorial Hospital and by the Wolves at one point.

Cold Bodies

Used by Martin in "No Sanctuary".


Used by Nicholas during a discussion in "Remember".


Used by Moyers during a discussion in "Cobalt".


Used by Alex Fairbanks during a conversation with Michonne Hawthorne in "What We Deserve", though not really mentioning its name. His grandmother refers to the zombies as Wendigos, a mythological cannibalistic monster from Algonquian folklore as the Fairbanks family are Native-American themselves.

The Dead

Used offhandedly by many survivors, notably with the survivors in Fear the Walking Dead, especially Daniel Salazar.

The Wasted

Used by Brandon's group in Fear the Walking Dead, starting in episode "Do Not Disturb". It is also used by members of the Kingdom, starting with Benjamin, in "The Well".


Used by Javier García and his family. Means "Dead Ones" in Spanish.

Lab Rats

Used by Dave and Tony in Season 2 Episode 8


Used by the DJ in Fear the Walking Dead: Radio Waves.

Hunger Demons

Term used by Rafael Machado.


Term used by Rafael Machado.

Monstro Da Fome

Term used by Rafael Machado.


A term used by Merle Dixon in Survival Instinct, referring to the herd moving towards a bar his gang was holed up in.

The Passed

A term used by John Dorie.

The Stumblers

A term used by Ryan in one of the Althea's tape.


In the TV Series, season 10 episode 5 (What It Always Is), Amelia calls zombies "the hissers"


A term used by Anderson's group to describe walkers that wear thick armor.


Pronounced (Jang-Sher) is a term used in The Walking Dead: Typhoon to describe a type of reanimated corpse in Chinese legends and folklore.


A term used by the Whisperers in the TV Series.


A term used by Virgil.


A term used by Dakota in Fear the Walking Dead Season 6.


A term used by the Doomsday Cult and The Stalkers in Fear the Walking Dead Season 6 and 7.


A term used by Tony Delmado and Percy.


This is a term used by Athena Mukherjee. Given that Athena said it in Grace's dream state, it's likely that this was a term she also used as well as maybe even the Lonestar Power & Light survivors.

Krispy Kremes

Speed Wilkins refers to the burned zombies from the prison herd as such much to the annoyance of Lilly Caul.


Lilly Caul makes a list of as many terms for zombies as she can remember that Tommy Dupree had come up with. This is one of many of those terms.


Lilly Caul makes a list of as many terms for zombies as she can remember that Tommy Dupree had come up with. This is one of many of those terms.


Lilly Caul makes a list of as many terms for zombies as she can remember that Tommy Dupree had come up with. This is one of many of those terms.


Lilly Caul makes a list of as many terms for zombies as she can remember that Tommy Dupree had come up with. This is one of many of those terms.


Lilly Caul makes a list of as many terms for zombies as she can remember that Tommy Dupree had come up with. This is one of many of those terms.


Lilly Caul makes a list of as many terms for zombies as she can remember that Tommy Dupree had come up with. This is one of many of those terms.


Lilly Caul makes a list of as many terms for zombies as she can remember that Tommy Dupree had come up with. This is one of many of those terms.

Meat Flyers

Lilly Caul makes a list of as many terms for zombies as she can remember that Tommy Dupree had come up with. This is one of many of those terms.


Lilly Caul makes a list of as many terms for zombies as she can remember that Tommy Dupree had come up with. This is one of many of those terms.


Lilly Caul makes a list of as many terms for zombies as she can remember that Tommy Dupree had come up with. This is one of many of those terms.


This is used several times to describe a group of zombies.


A term used in the novel series.


A term used in the novel series.


A term used by Melvin when describing a herd of walkers. It should be noted, that this term is also used by Dr. Edwin Jenner to describe the spread of the virus.


A term often used for any remaining walkers after a large herd has been defeated.

Meat Munchers

A term used by Sarah Rabinowitz


A term used by Shane Walsh to describe a group of walkers that is smaller than a herd, like the ones that attacked the Camp.


A term often used by the groups members of the Atlanta Camp, especially during the early seasons.

The Reanimated

A term often used by numerous counts of survivors to refer to zombies.

Reanimated Bodies

A term often used by numerous counts of survivors to refer to zombies.

Reanimated Corpses

A term often used by numerous counts of survivors to refer to zombies.

Reanimated Cadaver

A term often used by numerous counts of survivors to refer to zombies.


A term used by Wendell when referring to a walker. It seems to be a codeword to describe the dead between him and Sarah.


A term used by Sarah. Originally used from here time at the military, she now uses it to describe the dead.


A term used by Magna's Group.


A term used by Magna's Group.

Original Recipe

A term used by Eugene Porter after the discovery of The Whisperers. Used to distinguish members of the dead from members of The Whisperers.


A term used by Sarah.

Mindless Freaks

Said by members of The Living.


Said by members of The Living.

Bad Ones

Said by Duane Jones in the Morgan Special.


An often used term across the franchise.


A term used by Jeffrey Grimes.


A term used to describe the undead during the early onset of the apocalypse given that society had yet been able to definetly define what was going on.

The Sick

A term used to describe the undead during the early onset of the apocalypse given that society had yet been able to definetly define what was going on.


A term used by the residents of the Oceanside community, specifically those that came from the ocean.

Living Dead

A term used by Negan Smith to describe the walkers on the fence of The Sancturary.


A term used by Negan Smith to describe the walkers on the fence of The Sancturary.

Epidermis Epicureans

A term Eugene used to descirbe the dead.


A term used to describe a large group of walkers.

Dead People

A term used by Morgan when trying to explain to Rick about the apocalypse.

Test Subject

A term used by the researchers at the CDC.


A term used by The Prisoners.

Rot Bags

A term used by Negan Smith to refer to the walkers inside the Subway Tunnel.


A term used by Daryl Dixon.


A special kind of zombie seen in Overkill's The Walking Dead.

The Hungry Ones

A term used by Alpha when she threatens Henry that she'll let Beta break both his arms and legs and leave him for the dead.

Mega Clusters

A term used by the Civic Republic to describe a large herd.


A term used by the Civic Republic to describe a large herd.

Dumb Dumbs

A term used by those who live inside the CRM Decontamination Center.

The Damned

A term used by Ezekiel in the episode "The Damned".


A term used by the residents of The Perimeter.


The term zombie was used very early on in the Comic Series, most notably by Rick and Tyreese, before being abandoned.

Despite the fact that the idea of zombies was never a thing in the TV Universe, and thus the term would never have been popularized, the Waitress tells Troy that the quesadilla contains "antojitos zombie".

Variant Cohorts

A term used by Dr. Edwin Jenner to describe a new version of zombies that are seen in France. He says that to his knowledge, those type of zombies have yet to be seen in the U.S.A.

The Changed One

A term used by Celia Flores.

Dead Alive

A term used by Gretchen Trimbol.


A term used by Pablito.


A term often used to describe a horde of zombies, most notably by Dwight.


A term used by Annie's Group.


An often used term to describe the dead.

Flesh Eating Whatnots

A term used by Castro.

The Zombies of "The Walking Dead"

"Just to get this on record once and for all... and it is complicated, I know... here's how zombification works. Whatever makes people come back as zombies after they die--it's inside them. It's inside everyone. No matter how anybody dies, as long as the brain is intact... they turn into a zombie. Well... bites, and direct to blood contact with zombie gunk, [...] causes death. It's a strong infection that leads to fever that kills someone. Then the "virus" or whatever is already in them... turns them into a zombie."
—Robert Kirkman[src]

Zombies within The Walking Dead universe are Robert Kirkman's version of George Romero's Night of the Living Dead zombies.

Zombies are relatively weak and unintelligent as individuals, but are dangerous in large numbers and in tight spaces. They are the main antagonists within the post-apocalyptic world of The Walking Dead. The vast majority of the human population (6.9 billion people as of 2010) has been wiped out by zombies, which at their peak, outnumbered humans 5,000 to 1. This leaves about 1,400,000 survivors left.[5]

As a species, Kirkman's zombies do not evolve and are permanently doomed to just deteriorate until there's nothing left but the skeleton.[6]


Dr. Edwin Jenner: "It could be microbial, viral, parasitic, fungal."
Jacqui: "Or the wrath of God?"
— Jenner and Jacqui discussing the possible origins of the mysterious zombie pathogen.[src]

Everyone in The Walking Dead universe somehow contracted the zombie pathogen that, for reasons and through means unknown, brings the recently deceased back to "life." It is unknown where the disease originated from nor is it known whether if it's a natural or a man-made disease. Scientist Dr. Edwin Jenner did not even rule out the possibility that the disease is of supernatural origin. The exact taxonomy of the pathogen is also unknown. Curiously, the pathogen itself does not kill its hosts. Instead it remains dormant, likely within neural cells in the brain, leaving its host visibly and physically healthy. Only when the host dies, does the pathogen become active, infecting and reviving neural structures in the brain stem and certain parts of the cerebellum, turning a human into a zombie. A zombie is thus a condition a recently deceased host enters when the pathogen is in its active stage.


The zombie pathogen seems to possess two separate, but parallel modes of infection: latent and fluid contact/bites/scratches.

  • Latent: In The Walking Dead universe, most, if not every, human being on the planet is believed to be infected by a dormant strain of the zombie pathogen. It is currently unknown how one contracts the dormant stage of the pathogen, though its apparent total infection rate worldwide suggests it is either air-borne, water-borne, or both. Once infected, the virus spreads throughout the body through the blood, likely concentrating in the central nervous system. However, so long as the host remains alive, the pathogen remains latent or dormant within them and is asymptomatic to the host.
  • Fluid Contact/Bites/Scratches: Though physical contact with a zombie's saliva or blood will not cause an individual fatal infection, any fluid contact with open wounds will lead to irreversible contamination of the individual. However, zombie bites are not fatal because of the dormant zombie pathogen. Rather, one possible explanation is that through bites, the active pathogen carried within zombies induces a fatal and irreversible cytokine storm, further exacerbated by bacteria that reside in a zombie's mouth. Scratches could cause similar infections for similar reasons, however, no one in the comic or TV-show has ever gotten the fever as a result of a scratch. While zombie scratches and clawing rarely cause fatal infections, the deep gouges generally left by zombie bites are almost always fatal; death can be potentially avoided if the bite is on an appendage, which must be immediately amputated. However, this does not always work, and bites on the torso, or on veins or arteries are universally fatal. Even if an amputation proves successful at removing the infection, blood loss and subsequent infection is also extremely dangerous due to the generally unprofessional execution of the procedure.

Comics Series

In the comic series, getting zombie bodily fluid (blood, bile, saliva, etc.) or any part of the body directly into the blood stream causes infection, fever, and death, as evidenced by Negan's successful tactic to cover weapons in zombie flesh and guts for one-hit kills.

Television Universe

It is unclear in the TV-series whether or not the rule of infection above from the comic series is applicable. Sasha accidentally cut Abraham's arm with her zombie-blood soaked knife, yet he survived, indicating that the rules in the television series are different to a degree. This was referenced earlier in the Season 2 episode "18 Miles Out", where Shane cuts his own hand with a knife that was previously used to kill a walker, and later wipes his cut hand on a place which a walker has licked.

However, in Season 8, due to a shortage of bullets, Negan Smith orders his men to dunk their weapons in walker guts to use to infect any living survivor with one slash (very similar to the comics) and the Saviors are successfully able to infect numerous residents of the Hilltop colony by injuring them with their coated weapons. It is possible that more direct injuries to living survivors such as deep penetration wounds and larger quantities of walker tissue entering the bloodstream are able to cause living survivors to die and turn. At one point, Daryl Dixon states that this method of infection isn't the same as being bitten, that some people turn and some don't. However, this is contradicted by Tara Chambler who points out that everyone but her who got hit by tainted weapons fell ill and turned. In Tara's case, it is believed that Dwight purposefully shot her with a clean arrow to save her life. In all probability, the injuries to Shane and Abraham mentioned above were not fatal because their wounds were not deep enough to get infected.

As seen in "The Big Scary U," using the walker guts trick has its own downsides as its possible for the person to get sick from the bacteria and contagions carried in the dead blood and guts. Gabriel Stokes got ill in this manner, though Negan, who used blood from the same walker and put it unprotected on his skin, did not. However, this is simply transmission of already present illnesses and not contagion that turns people into zombies.

As seen in Season 10, it appears that spreading walker blood through a water source does not contaminate it with the pathogen. When Mary did this to Alexandria's water supply, the residents only got cholera. In addition, the community's water filters would've stopped it had Dante not turned them off.

Symptoms of Infections

The zombie pathogen seems to possess two stages: a dormant stage and an active stage.

Dormant Stage

Michonne: "They weren't bitten."
The Governor: "Doesn't matter. However we die, we all turn."
— The Governor revealing the dormant stage of the infection to Michonne and Andrea.[src]

As mentioned previously, during the dormant stage, the pathogen is asymptomatic. The host will thus remain healthy despite being technically 'infected' and will continue to remain so as long they are alive. After the host dies, the dormant pathogen enters the active stage and will begin the process of reanimating the body through the infection and reactivation of neural structures in the brain. No matter how an individual dies, unless their brain was severely damaged or destroyed, they will reanimate into a zombie following death.[7][8]

Active Stage

"It invades the brain like meningitis. The adrenal glands hemorrhage, the brain goes into shutdown, then the major organs. Then death. Everything you ever were or ever will be…gone."
—Dr. Edwin Jenner describing the active stage of the infection.[src]

The pathogen enters the active stage when an individual dies and is responsible for the host's reanimation as a zombie. When an individual is bitten by a zombie, the active pathogen is transmitted into them as well as a plethora of bacteria and other infectious agents that reside in a zombie's mouth. In the event that amputation fails or is not possible, it is believed that the active pathogen then induces a fatal and irreversible cytokine storm, causing a high fever, aches, extreme fatigue, and nausea. As the infection progresses, the active pathogen invades and spreads through the brain like meningitis, infecting synapses and other neural structures that are concentrated in the brain stem and parts of the cerebellum. At the climax of the infection, the adrenal glands hemorrhage and the brain completely shuts down. All brain activity would cease, followed by the major organs and the body would be clinically dead: no measurable brain activity, no reflexes, and no respiration or pulse. The time between the onset of the symptoms and death, followed by reanimation is very dependent on the severity, location, and quantity of the bite wound(s) of individuals who cannot be saved.

"I've seen it. I've seen what it does. The bites don't turn you, but the infection is not treatable. Infection kills you like anything else."
—Liza Ortiz describing the infection to Travis Manawa.[src]

In "The Good Man" of Fear the Walking Dead, Elizabeth Ortiz, after spending time with military doctor Bethany Exner, implies that all the infection itself from the bites does is kill the person. The reanimation comes from the person dying as it would if they died of something like a gunshot or stab wound.

Those bitten experience the following symptoms as the infection progresses, ending in death:

  • Dizziness
  • Weakness and fatigue
  • Fever
  • Delirium/hallucinations
  • Chills
  • Nausea/vomiting
  • Pale skin
  • Diluted pupils
  • Soreness
  • Fluid discharge
  • Spontaneous aggression or anger
  • Fainting
  • Hair loss and missing scalp pieces
  • Dehydration
  • Coughing up blood
  • Pale yellow sclera
  • Internal hemorrhaging
  • Organ failure


"The rule is WHATEVER it is that causes the zombies, is something everyone already has. If you stub your toe, get an infection and die, you turn into a zombie, UNLESS your brain is damaged. If someone shoots you in the head and you die, you're dead. A zombie bite kills you because of infection, or blood loss, not because of the zombie "virus.""
—Robert Kirkman[src]
"A dead body wouldn't become a walker until its body temperature had lowered enough that another walker wouldn't be tempted to bite it. It reaches a very dead corpse state before reanimation occurs."
—Robert Kirkman[src]

The dead corpse of anyone that dies for any reason will reanimate as a zombie, unless the brain of the individual is badly damaged or destroyed, or the person was dead prior to the outbreak. As seen on the MRI of Candace Jenner, when a person dies, the active pathogen they carry enters the active stage, and reactivates critical areas of the brain that it infected, specifically the brain stem and some parts of the cerebrum and cerebellum that support necessary vital systems such as movement, resulting in reanimation after a variable amount of time. Since the active pathogen only reactivates the brain stem and not parts of the brain such as the frontal lobe and neocortex that are responsible for higher-order brain functions, the reanimated person retains only a physical resemblance to their former self.

In the TV Series, it was stated by Dr. Jenner that (according to all gathered evidence and research available at the time) a corpse can reanimate between three minutes and eight hours after death, though there are instances where reanimation seems to happen much quicker, and the video game suggests that it could happen in seconds.


Comic Series

In the comic book, the group commonly encounters two zombie types: wandering, noise attracted "roamers," and lethargic "lurkers." In the first volume, a lurker is seen eating a deer. It ignores Rick and Shane. In Volume 4, a lurker bites Allen as he carelessly passes it by.

In Volume 10, Eugene studies a lurker that is too weak to move, suggesting that after time and lack of food, roamers become lurkers that become less alert and active as time passes.

In a recent letter column, Kirkman promises more hints of zombie physiology, and in a recent column he confirmed that "...whatever is making them walk around is also keeping them from rotting to bones in a matter of weeks."[9]

A zombie "lifetime" varies, though it is known that a human will likely outlive a zombie through the course of many years/decades.[10]

The body of the corpses, very likely through the zombie pathogen, manages to avoid immediate decomposition like regular human corpses, being able to halt or at least slow down, decomposition for years, if not decades at a time.[11]

Television Universe

In the show, it has been demonstrated that zombies don't require sustenance by eating, but have a strong desire to do so. This is despite the fact that they have no digestive or circulatory activity which makes them unable to digest whatever flesh they consume. Zombies do not need to breathe, evidenced by Pete Dolgen still trying to reach for humans while underwater.

Zombies may very rarely "dodge" melee attacks by leaning out of the way slightly, and some have been observed holding up their arms to likewise block attacks.

Milton Mamet once stated that zombies do starve, but "slower" than humans.

Much like in the comics, decomposition is dramatically slowed down compared to a regular corpse. Cliff Carlucci likely died not long after the outbreak, but was still active a decade later.

Both Universes

Zombies have the ability to detect scents and can differentiate between the living and the dead; they prefer to feed on living flesh. Covering one's self in the scent of decay can act as a camouflage. They can also use sight to distinguish the living from the dead, although they seem to have poor eyesight as their irises fade and decay over time. They make up for this with heightened senses of hearing and smell. Darkness seems to have little effect on zombies' senses at close range, and in areas devoid of light they can still find their way around as they would in the day.

Individual zombie strength depends on the physical makeup of the individual and on how long they have been reanimated. When attacking, zombies often become more lively, exhibiting full-body effort, and can produce enough force to quickly overwhelm an adult human. Zombies have been shown to be able to rip open human and animal victims with ease, and they can even rip off human limbs with enough force. As zombies decay, however, their muscles, and consequently, their entire body, becomes slowly, but surely, weaker.

Zombies feel no pain. Although slow and seemingly unintelligent when not active, they can react quickly to sufficient stimulation, and can rapidly overpower a victim they have taken by surprise. Though their bodies are no more or less durable than a non-decomposed human body, they can absorb all manner of physical damage, even when badly decomposed. Anything other than a head attack, spinal cord severing, or dismemberment leaves them seemingly unfazed. As long as their brain remains intact, everything that is attached to the brain can continue to function as normal, even if only the skull remains and is severed from the body.

Other than a mostly intact brain, zombies don't appear to require any vital systems or organ functions to survive, although their ambulatory functions do decrease as their level of decomposition increases. Sufficient physical damage can slow them down, or render them incapacitated.

Compared to humans, zombies have rather limited mobility. Unstimulated, zombies stand still, or shuffle around slowly. When in this state they are sometimes referred to as "lurkers," as they can quickly activate, attack and kill. Zombies can also be found lying on the ground or in piles of other bodies, and can appear to be dead until stimulated. If they are pursuing a possible victim, zombies can move somewhat more quickly, roughly equivalent to a very light jogging pace. They can also lunge very short distances to grab close prey. They are difficult to shake off if they do manage to grab their victims, often allowing their arm to be ripped off before they will begin to let go.


"Attracted to sound and movement. Compulsion to eat never subsides. Susceptible to group behavior that makes movement easy to predict and control. They're simple creatures. Easy to figure out."
—Eugene, regarding zombie behavior.[src]

A reanimated body responds to stimuli such as light, scent, and loud noises. Oddly, even if the head is separated from the body, as long as the brain is intact, the head will still attempt to eat anything within reach. The body of a zombie does appear to be truly dead, which means that it does not feel pain, has no reflexes, and wounds to it will not heal; its rate of decomposition slows drastically but does continue.

There is anecdotal evidence that some retain vestigial elements of memory and personality and this is shown some repeating behavior such as clinging to possessions, attempting to open doors, and even using large rocks to break through windows and doors.[12] Zombies though, are incredibly unintelligent and generally unable to use tools or understand the need for them. It has been hinted at that newly reanimated corpses retain some basic sense of intellect and perhaps memory, and can perform very basic tasks such as opening doors. They have no sense of self-preservation other than eating, and will not react at all to the deaths of other zombies or to potentially lethal dangers to themselves.

Zombies instinctively bite whatever prey they come in contact with, but have also been observed clawing at, tearing, and even punching humans and animals in order to topple them. They are slow and have a hard time overcoming obstacles, but have on occasion been shown to perform tasks like running and climbing fences.


"These things only go down with a head shot."
—Daryl Dixon describing how to kill zombies.[src]

Because a zombie is derived from a human form, it is limited physically by many of the same constraints that a human has. But because a zombie is, by definition, dead, it slowly rots and decays like other dead organisms. Over time, flesh and muscles deteriorate, and it becomes less and less formidable.

They are only truly killed by destroying the brain, a common theme in many zombie variations. A severed head will remain animated and aggressive until the brain is destroyed or eventually disintegrates from decomposition. Fire has little effect on zombies, other than possibly angering them further, and normally lethal things such as acid or electricity also do little to impede them. They can be paralyzed if their spinal cords are severed, though if they still have enough functional use of their arms only makes them much less ambulatory, clawing and dragging themselves across the ground. Radiation isn't enough to keep someone from turning and if a person dies of radiation sickness, their walker remains will be radioactive.


"Just a shell driven by mindless instinct."
—Dr. Edwin Jenner describing the intelligence of zombies.[src]

Though zombies retain a physical resemblance to the living, cognitive similarities are almost non-existent beyond low-level functions, though there are examples of behavior that suggest zombies may retain small fragments of memory of their past lives. Zombies have enough intelligence to walk upright, to use their bodies to break objects, and to climb around or over somewhat small obstacles such as chain-link fences. Zombies can ascend and descend staircases, albeit very clumsily and slowly. They cannot generally operate doors or gates and only attempt to do so when they are relatively "fresh"; they tend to bash through obstacles rather than traversing them.

Mostly, zombies are void of any emotional expression and thought. When stimulated, whether by noise, sight of prey, or simply encountering a problem they cannot solve, such as being unable to open a locked door, they quickly descend into a state of murderous aggression. If they spot prey when stimulated, they can pursue them ceaselessly, showing ravenous hunger.

They are not hunters, however, and take no concern in alerting their victims or trying to hunt them with intelligence, always seeming to roar, grunt, and growl whenever they are stimulated. Zombies seem to only be drawn to noise (such as that of a gunshot), presumably because they attribute the source of the noise to be caused by potential victims, and the smell of any blood that does not belong to a zombie. They have however occasionally been shown to be able to catch their victims by surprise, notably the walker who fatally wounded Dale Horvath which approached him silently and before pouncing him was only stimulated when Dale turned to see it.

Zombies also tend to form groups and stick together, and mimic the actions of other zombies, giving them a mob mentality. This can lead to zombies forming "herds," large hordes of zombies are far more dangerous and aggressive than smaller groups. In "Guts," zombies retain a further animalistic trait within their "herds," appearing to "sniff out" or examine new-coming zombies before leaving them be, as they do to Rick and Glenn, which may indicate that zombies seem to be able to familiarize themselves with their own kind and be cautious of ones they do not recognize.

Newer zombies may rarely use primitive tools, such as using a heavy brick to smash a window, but none have any high-level abilities to use items in their environment.

They lack any remaining speech capabilities, and can only moan, grunt, or wheeze, as well as roar and scream when alerted. Zombies are not shown to be able to "communicate" with other zombies by any means, though they will frequently copy the actions they witness other zombies perform, such as bashing on a door or moving in a group, eventually forming a herd.

Robert Kirkman wrote on Reddit:

...In the beginning of the show we saw walkers do things like using a rock to help bash the doors in or turning a door knob, is there a reason we've stopped seeing them do that?

"Older zombies are less together and capable or doing things like that. Fresher zombies, which there were more of in season one, are able to do more than older, more rotted zombies.

Eating Habits

Zombies prefer to eat anything dead or alive: animals and people. Zombies do not digest food. When their bodies are "full," the undigested meat will be forced out through the anus.[13] As zombies are dead, their bodies will continue to rot even if they are well-fed.

Zombies are never shown in any media to exhibit cannibalistic tendencies, even after going through long periods without food, and only show interest in animals and living humans.

If the zombie loses the ability to feed, they evidently lose the desire to do so—a behavior observed in Michonne's pet Walkers. With their loss of desire for eating also comes with a loss of aggression and activity; unless present around other zombies, those who have lost the will to eat will remain quiet and lethargic, mindlessly walking in any given direction and paying no mind to humans.

The presence of many zombies being partially consumed or missing limbs also indicates that zombies, though they seem perpetually hungry, do not always devour prey fully, meaning that, at least for a short period of time, can feel "full" and not want to eat.

In the TV series, the walker that consumed Lori Grimes' body was lethargic, sated and full, and did not attack Rick when he arrived on the scene. Still, they can be driven to attack and consume live prey due to the sheer aggressiveness the reanimative contagion seems to have given them.


It's been discovered by survivors that there are ways for them to blend in with zombies without being noticed. It's learned that when a person covers themselves in the scent of a zombie or corpse, other zombies can't tell the difference between them and one of their own. The first camouflage method to be discovered was using the guts technique. By smearing parts of the body with zombie blood, a person is able to come across zombies undetected. Unfortunately there are two problems with this technique. The first problem is that the blood can easily dry up or be washed off, leaving you once again being noticed by passing zombies. The second problem is that zombies will attack regardless of scent if the user draws attention to themselves such as causing extremely loud noises or start bleeding their own blood. This technique was first discovered by Rick and Glenn as they were walking through Atlanta. Nicholas Clark was able to use this technique several times without incident after discovering it by accident. Notably, on the first time he did it, the walkers continued to ignore him even after Nick killed several. Due to the danger of getting sick from normal contagions within the blood, survivors tend to spread the blood and guts on a sheet or piece of clothing that they are wearing rather than direct skin contact. During the final battle of the Whisperer War in "A Certain Doom," the Coalition used this trick to great effect to pass through a massive horde and later to infiltrate it and silently assassinate their enemies within.

The second known technique are "walker pets". By being in close proximity with a zombie without being bitten, the other zombies will instinctively assume the human is also a zombie. In the TV-Series, The Governor once noted that by "walk[ing] with the biters, they think you're a biter". Although the user's close proximity with the zombie usually wards off the other zombies, they can still attract attention since their scent is still exposed. This technique was first discovered by Michonne who kept her zombified boyfriend and his friend in chains after cutting off their arms and jaws.

The third known technique is zombie skin. Similar to the guts technique, the user masks their smell by skinning the skin off zombies, curing it into human leather (which eliminates the danger of contagion), and wearing them as clothing. Faces and scalps are usually used to create a mask, which can be repaired by sewing in newer pieces from other zombies as desired or by necessity. This is perhaps the best out of the three when it comes to camouflage as it can't be washed off and doesn't leave a survivor exposed. However, they can still be attacked by zombies if they draw attention to themselves. Additionally, unfamiliar survivors may shoot camouflaged humans, thinking that they are zombies. This technique is notably used by a group called the Whisperers.

Also of note is that walkers tend not to notice or target those in advanced states of infection, as evidenced by Minerva being able to fall back into a herd in "Take Us Back" without any of the above-mentioned techniques. However, she was also shown to have a large amount of walker blood and gore on her body, likely from the carnage she was caught in earlier, which may have helped camouflage her, though the walkers did eventually take notice of her and attack her after she was shot by Clementine.

It was recently revealed that when a survivor is suffering from a septic or gangrenous wound, the smell of the wound will mask their scent from walkers. This causes walkers to ignore them, until they cause too much noise or become noticeable to the walkers. This method, however, is not safe due to the fact that the survivor is risking blood poisoning and further necrosis of their flesh due to the nature of the septic/gangrenous wound.

Characters That Turned

The following is a list of characters from The Walking Dead that have all died and reanimated as a zombie. The video game section shows all characters that can potentially turn undead, regardless of player choice.

Season 1

Season 2

Season 3

Season 4

Season 5

Season 6

Season 7

Season 8

Season 9

Season 10

Season 11

Season One

Season Two


A New Frontier

The Final Season

Prominent Victims

The most notable characters killed by zombies are listed below.

Season One

Season Two


A New Frontier

The Final Season


  • It is confirmed by Edwin Jenner, most notably in Candace Jenner's brain projection, that only the brain stems and small regions around it are active. However, as the sensoric, problem-solving and coordination centers were completely disabled and inactive, it does not make sense that walkers would be capable of using tools, and possess hearing and smell beyond that of humans. The explanation for this is still unknown.
  • In the TV Series, walkers are shown mainly in "Guts" and "Bloodletting" to run at a very light jogger's pace, despite the fact that Kirkman has stated in the past that all zombies run at the same pace as those seen in the Romero films. This was Darabont's vision before he left the Series.
  • It is possible that the blood of a zombie being consumed directly or indirectly does not affect a human in any way. This is shown several times throughout the series.
    • In the season 5 finale of the show, Rick has to push his hands through a walker's throat, causing it to bleed out all over Rick's face. If one looks closely, one can see Rick appearing to swallow/consume the blood.
    • Another instance is in season 6, episode 3, when Rick comes across two walkers, one of which has a knife stuck in the shoulder. He takes that same knife and accidentally cuts himself with it with the walker's blood visible on it. To this day, Rick hasn't shown any signs of an infection.
    • In Season 10, the Whisperers infecting Alexandria's water supply with walker blood and guts combined with Dante turning off the filtration system only gives the residents cholera, presumably from the natural bacteria in the walker remains.
    • More evidence comes from Fear the Walking Dead. During the midseason premiere of season 2, Nick watches from an abandoned bus as two dogs that recently attacked him get devoured by a swarm of walkers. After the herd slowly moves on, a very hungry and thirsty Nick crawls up to the dogs' mangled corpses and takes a chunk of the meat and proceeds to eat it, but never shows any sign of infection afterwards.
  • In season 1 of the TV series, the walkers' eyes were generally gray or yellow with a red limbal ring, but in the season 2 webisodes, "Cold Storage" and the later episodes of the TV Series, their eyes are generally gold. Older and more decayed walkers, however, have mostly or completely faded irises, leaving only dark pupils.
  • According to Robert Kirkman in episode 2 of Talking Dead, in the TV Series, the works of George A. Romero were never made, and thus zombies do not appear in fiction.
  • In the Webisodes, it is rumored that terrorists caused the "infection." This is most likely not true, as Kirkman himself never intended to explain the source of the outbreak and thus is just what is a rumor.
  • In the Fear the Walking Dead: Radio Waves podcast, a conspiracy theorist claims to have found proof that the infection was caused by the government as a means of population control. How reliable this is is unknown.
  • Walkers are some of the many amputees in The Walking Dead. For other victims, see Amputated Victims.
  • Scott Gimple believes the walkers' decaying vision attracts them to fire. Fire represents two of the only things walker can still see: light and movement.[14]
  • In "Guts," a walker is seen displaying intelligence by using a rock to break the glass of a department store in which a group is hiding. Zombies are also seen climbing fences. The writers of the AMC series say that they agreed on making the zombies of the first season "smart," but for every season since, it has been accepted that zombies are unintelligent beings.
    • Perhaps recently deceased people retain their motor functions and can pick up objects and climb over fences.
  • While smearing oneself in walker guts is seen to be an effective trick in a tight situation, it also carries dangers as the person using the trick can get sick as happened to Gabriel Stokes in "The Big Scary U". On previous occasions, characters took precautions to prevent touching the guts directly with Rick specifically stating in "Guts" to not allow the guts to touch anyone's skin or get in their eyes. When Gabriel got sick, he and Negan Smith, who remained fine, had no way of taking extra precautions. In "Worth", Eugene Porter theorized the infection Gabriel got had to be influenza or cryptococcosis and was likely airborne.
  • Overkill's The Walking Dead features special kinds of zombies known as "Bloaters", bloated zombies that explode after being killed or just by getting close to them. This is only instance in the franchise to feature a different kind of zombie other than regular ones.



  1. Lee calling the dead a "Zombie"
    Clementine and Lee are in the Pharmacy Office, Lee is looking at the locked door, and mentions that the keys to the office are "On that 'Zombie' out on the street."

    "The Keys are on that Zombie out on the street."

  2. Chicago Comic & Entertainment Expo 2012, interview panel with Lauren Cohan and Steven Yeun
  3. For the concept of a "zombie herd" being carried to the horrifying extremes, see David Moody's Autumn series.
  4. The Walking Dead episode Indifference (season 4 episode 4). 14minutes 5seconds in version that includes "previously on The Walking Dead". Ana said: "We were there about a day and the skin-eaters showed up."
  5. Image Comics; The Walking Dead, Issue 10
  6. Issue 47, page 27, "Letter Hacks".
  7. ,Comic book series, Issue 15
  8. Revealed gradually in the TV Series episodes TS-19, Better Angels, Beside the Dying Fire and confirmed separately by the Governor in Walk With Me.
  9. Issue 121: Letter Hacks.
  10. Issue 7 - Letter Hacks
  11. Issue 9 - Letter Hacks
  12. Season 1 Ep 2, Guts
  13. Issue 111: Page 26; Letter Hacks.
  14. Talking Dead, Inside the Dead, Season 4, Episode 14. "The Grove"

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