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This article is about the zombies in the series. You may be looking for Notable Zombies or other Themes.
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First Appearance Issue 1 (Comic Series)
"Days Gone Bye" (TV Series)
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"Pilot" (Companion Series)
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Status Undead
Series lifespan "Days Gone Bye" to Present (TV Series)
Issue 1 to Present (Comic Series)
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"A New Day" to Present (Webisodes)
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"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 or infected 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: A reanimated body that still carries some function that allows it to move.


A zombie will not die until its brain is destroyed. Even when decapitated, the head will continue to 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 book, when Rick Grimes's 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.

"Zombie" has been used once 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.[1] 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's 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 they 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 to 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 Poter 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.[2]


Alice, 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 Caesar 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, 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.


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 in the TV Series episode "Indifference" used this term in conversation with Rick and Carol Peletier.


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."

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 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 OathKarina calls the zombies "Decays".


Used in The Walking Dead Webisodes: The Oath, a small horde is called a "swarm" by Paul and Karina.

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 and is frequently used by Harlan.


Used to describe the undead by Sam and Ana in Season 4, "Indifference".

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".

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 majority of known humanity has been wiped out by zombies, which have come to outnumber humans 5,000 to 1.[3]

As a species, Kirkman's zombie do not evolve and are permanently doomed to just deteriorate until there's nothing left but the skeleton.[4]


Most, if not everyone, on the planet within The Walking Dead universe somehow contracted the pathogen that, for reasons and through means unknown, brings the dead back to "life." It is unknown how the disease is spread, though its almost-total infection rate worldwide suggests it is either water-borne, air-borne, or both. The exact taxonomy of the pathogen is unknown. The pathogen itself does not kill its hosts, but it seems to weaken their immune systems considerably, to the point where even minor illnesses are far more fatal than normal to humans.


"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]

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. When a person dies, the infection they carry reactivates critical areas of the brain that support necessary vital systems, resulting in reanimation. Because only a portion of the brain is reactivated, the reanimated person retains only a physical resemblance to their former self.

In the TV Series, it was stated that a corpse can reanimate between three minutes and eight hours after death, though the video game suggests that it could happen in seconds.

The first cases of infection progressed through a state of fever, aches, and internal bleeding, and this illness ultimately was fatal. As seen on the MRI of Candace Jenner, the pathogen spreads into the brain like meningitis. It infects synapses, mostly concentrating on those in the brain stem. It eventually causes the adrenal glands to hemorrhage and the brain to shutdown, 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. A variable time later, the pathogen, through some means, would revive synapses it infected and reactivate the brainstem of the dead body, but only the brainstem and not the cerebrum or cerebellum.


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 5, 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."[5]

A zombie "lifetime" varies, though it is known that a human will likely outlive a zombie through the course of many years/decades.[6]

The body of the corpses somehow manages the avoid immediate decomposition like regular human corpses, being able to half/slow down the decomposition for years, if not decades at a time.[7]

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, despite the fact that they have no digestive or circulatory activity, making 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" (in this case slightly leaning out of the way) melee attacks, 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.

Both Universes

Zombies have the ability to detect scents and differentiate between the living and the dead, and 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 living from the dead, although they seem to have poor eyesight as their irises fade and decay, but they make up for it in very heightened senses of hearing and smell. Darkness seems to have little effect on zombies' senses at close ranges, 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 bare-handedly 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, zombies 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, and anything other than a head attack, spinal cord severing, or dismemberment leaves them seemingly unfazed. As long as their brain remains intact, they can continue functioning as normal, even if only their skull remains and severed from their 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 rather slowly. When in this state they are referred to as "lurkers," as they can quickly activate, attack and kill. Some "living" zombies can also be found lying on the ground or in piles of other bodies, often appearing dead until stimulated. However, if they are pursuing a possible victim, zombies can move somewhat more quickly, roughly equivalent to a very light jogging pace. They can lunge very short distances to grab close prey, and if they do manage to grab their victims, they are quite difficult to shake off, often allowing their arm to even be ripped off before they begin to let go.


A reanimated body responds to stimuli such as light, scent, and loud noises. Oddly, even if the head was separated from the body, as long as the brain was intact, the head would still attempt to eat anything within reach. If the body was truly dead, which meant that it did not feel pain, had no reflexes, and wounds to it (apart from those directly inflicted to the brain) it would not heal; its rate of decomposition slows somewhat while reanimated, but the breakdown process continues. 

There is anecdotal evidence that some retain vestigial elements of memory and personality such as clinging to possessions. Zombies are incredibly unintelligent, unable to use tools or understand. 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, tearing, and even punching humans and animals in order to topple them.


As previously stated, the zombie pathogen itself is not lethal, and the zombie "infection" occurs due to high concentrations of antibiotic-resistant bacteria found in zombies, especially in their mouths. In the Walking Dead universe, most, if not every, human being on the planet is believed to be infected. Any time a human dies they will reanimate, bitten or not, unless their brain is destroyed. 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 an irreversible contamination of the individual.


Zombie bites are not necessarily fatal because of the zombie pathogen, but rather the unsanitary nature of their mouths due to diet and decomposition. Scratches could cause similar infections for similar reasons, however, no one in the comics 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 left by zombie bites are almost always fatal; death can potentially be avoided if the bite is on an appendage, which then must be amputated immediately after the bite. However, this does not always work, and bites on main parts of the body, or on veins or arteries are always fatal. Even if an amputation proves successful at removing the infection, blood loss is also extremely dangerous due to the general unprofessional conduction of the procedure.

Comics Series

In the comic series, getting zombie blood, bile, saliva, or any part of the body directly into the blood stream causes infection, fever, and death, as evidence 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 Abraham survived, indicating that the rules in the television universe are different.

Symptoms of infection

Symptoms of the infection includes:

  • Dizziness
  • Weakness and Fatigue
  • Fever/Delirium/Hallucinations
  • Chills
  • Nausea/Vomiting
  • Pale skin
  • Dilated pupils
  • Soreness[8]
  • Fluid discharge
  • Spontaneous aggression or anger
  • Fainting[9]
  • Loss of hair and missing scalp pieces
  • Dehydration[10]
  • Coughing up blood[11]
  • Pale yellow sclera (shown in the video game only) [12]


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 this does not kill them, even if their heads are severed from the bodies.


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 operate doors or gates, and prefer bashing 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 be drawn to noise, presumably because they attribute the source of the noise to be caused by potential victims.

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 living flesh: 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.

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.

Fear The Walking Dead

Season 1


Season One

400 Days

Season Two

Social Game

Prominent Victims

The most notable characters killed by zombies are listed below.

  • Majority of the world's population


  • 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.
  • 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 world of The Walking Dead, 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.
  • 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.



  1. Chicago Comic & Entertainment Expo 2012, interview panel with Lauren Cohan and Steven Yeun
  2. For the concept of a "zombie herd" being carried to the horrifying extremes, see David Moody's Autumn series.
  3. Image Comics; The Walking Dead, Issue 10
  4. Issue 47, page 27, "Letter Hacks".
  5. Issue 121: Letter Hacks.
  6. Issue 7 - Letter Hacks
  7. Issue 9 - Letter Hacks
  8. Jim in the TV Series episode, "Wildfire."
  9. Lee in the Video Game while he was bitten.
  10. Duck after being bitten, and Jim on the TV Series.
  11. Duck a while after being bitten on the Video Game.
  12. Lee Everett and Peter Joseph Randall.
  13. Issue 111: Page 26; Letter Hacks.
  14. Talking Dead, Inside the Dead, Season 4, Episode 14. "The Grove"

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