dis·​sect dī-ˈsekt How to pronounce dissect (audio)
di- How to pronounce dissect (audio) ˈdī-ˌsekt How to pronounce dissect (audio)
dissected; dissecting; dissects

transitive verb

: to separate into pieces : expose the several parts of (something, such as an animal) for scientific examination
dissect an earthworm
dissecting flowers
: to analyze and interpret minutely
dissect a problem
di- How to pronounce dissect (audio)
Choose the Right Synonym for dissect

analyze, dissect, break down mean to divide a complex whole into its parts or elements.

analyze suggests separating or distinguishing the component parts of something (such as a substance, a process, a situation) so as to discover its true nature or inner relationships.

analyzed the collected data

dissect suggests a searching analysis by laying bare parts or pieces for individual scrutiny.

commentators dissected every word of the speech

break down implies a reducing to simpler parts or divisions.

break down the budget

Example Sentences

We dissected a frog in science class. She dissected each point of his argument. We dissected the poem in class. The city is dissected by a network of highways.
Recent Examples on the Web Hollywood awards strategists will surely dissect the phenomenon for generations. Seth Abramovitch, The Hollywood Reporter, 15 Feb. 2023 The episode also underlines how Black women have historically used R&B as a space to dissect their own experiences with love and create their own language for it. Deasia Paige, ELLE, 3 Feb. 2023 Southwest has hired consulting firm Oliver Wyman to dissect the meltdown and figure out what is needed to prevent another. Dallas News, 26 Jan. 2023 More recently, as an olfactory neuroscientist for Google Research’s Brain Team, Wiltschko used machine learning to dissect our most ancient and least understood sense. Allison Parshall, Quanta Magazine, 10 Oct. 2022 Employees need to be able to dissect data with multiple filters and measure different variables. Mike Dickerson, Forbes, 29 June 2022 The focus is football this week, though, and how to dissect TCU's 3-3-5 defensive scheme. Richard Obert, The Arizona Republic, 27 Dec. 2022 Be sure to take a look at the extras on the page, such as the podcast, video, and graphic instructions for how to dissect a 50-ton whale. Carl Zimmer, Discover Magazine, 6 Feb. 2012 And besides, there’s plenty about J.J. Watt for the rest of us to dissect, such as his two seasons with the Cardinals. Kent Somers, The Arizona Republic, 27 Dec. 2022 See More

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'dissect.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

Word History


Latin dissectus, past participle of dissecare to cut apart, from dis- + secare to cut — more at saw

First Known Use

1598, in the meaning defined at transitive sense 1

Time Traveler
The first known use of dissect was in 1598

Dictionary Entries Near dissect

Cite this Entry

“Dissect.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/dissect. Accessed 24 Mar. 2023.

Kids Definition


: to cut up (as a plant or animal) into separate parts for examination and study
: to make a careful examination of
dissect a problem

from Latin dissectus, past participle of dissecare "to cut apart," from dis- "apart" and secare "to cut" — related to insect, section

Medical Definition


transitive verb
: to cut so as to separate into pieces or to expose the several parts of (as an animal or a cadaver) for scientific examination
specifically : to separate or follow along natural lines of cleavage (as through connective tissue)
dissect out the regional lymph nodes
a dissecting aneurysm

intransitive verb

: to make a medical dissection
dissector noun

More from Merriam-Webster on dissect

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