vis·​cer·​al ˈvi-sə-rəl How to pronounce visceral (audio)
: felt in or as if in the internal organs of the body : deep
a visceral conviction
: not intellectual : instinctive, unreasoning
visceral drives
: dealing with crude or elemental emotions : earthy
a visceral novel
: of, relating to, or located on or among the viscera : splanchnic
visceral organs
ˈvi-sə-rə-lē How to pronounce visceral (audio)

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The Tie Between Visceral and Biology

Apologies in advance for the offal puns, but we have a gut feeling it’s going to be hard to resist serving them up for this particular word. After all, the English language is home to a bellyful of words that refer literally to body parts and figuratively to emotions associated with them. If something has ever tickled your funny bone or touched your heart, we trust you’ve got our back on this. The adjective visceral is another prime example. Something described as visceral has to do with the viscera—that is, the internal organs of the body (especially the heart, liver, or intestines). Yet even in the early years of its use, visceral often described emotional feeling, as the physical viscera were considered the seats of human passion, sentiment, et al. Though we no longer ascribe anger to, say, the spleen, we still use visceral to describe things that are felt deeply, as if in our physical bodies. In medical contexts the word still describes things related to our actual viscera.

Examples of visceral in a Sentence

In 1972 he began an address at a Chamber of Commerce luncheon, "Let me start off by saying this is not quite an honor, my being here. I haven't had too much regard for the Chamber of Commerce in my years in Boston. When the Celtics won 11 championships in 13 years, it was ignored in their own town." Arnold Jacob Auerbach, though paradoxical and highly idiosyncratic, was foremost a direct and visceral man. Frank Deford, Sports Illustrated, 6 Nov. 2006
When you measure your waist circumference, you're indirectly measuring your visceral fat. David Schardt, Nutrition Action, July/August 2006
But there are strong taboos I haven't anticipated. The most striking is the visceral dislike of rawness. In China, the consumption of raw foods was historically viewed as a barbarian habit, and most everything is still eaten cooked. Fuchsia Dunlop, Gourmet, August 2005
One of the wonders of cooking is that the tiniest adjustment to what you are making, the addition of a single ingredient or the execution of a technique, can entirely change a dish and the visceral response you get from eating it. Amanda Hesser, New York Times, 17 July 2002
Her visceral reaction was to curse at the other driver.
Recent Examples on the Web Her accompanying growls and the impact of the way the ice hits and breaks along the bathtub are visceral. Kristina Behr, Parents, 16 May 2024 This could hasten the sell-off, turning profit-taking into panic—a visceral plunge that would only be exacerbated by the inherent inelasticity and correlation of a passive market. Andrew Lipstein, Harper's Magazine, 26 Apr. 2024 Whether engineering albums by Pixies and the Jesus Lizard or leading his own bands Shellac and Big Black, Albini specialized in capturing the visceral thrill of guitars and drums played at ear-splitting volumes. Al Shipley, SPIN, 9 May 2024 The Roots drummer scoffed at Drake and K. Dot’s war in a fiery Instagram post on Tuesday night (May 8) where Quest put fans on blast for their visceral reactions to the haymakers exchanged on the scathing diss tracks. Michael Saponara, Billboard, 8 May 2024 See all Example Sentences for visceral 

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'visceral.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History

First Known Use

1575, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Time Traveler
The first known use of visceral was in 1575


Dictionary Entries Near visceral

Cite this Entry

“Visceral.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 17 Jun. 2024.

Kids Definition


vis·​cer·​al ˈvis-ə-rəl How to pronounce visceral (audio)
: felt in or as if in the viscera
a visceral belief
: of, relating to, or being the viscera
visceral organs
viscerally adverb

Medical Definition


vis·​cer·​al ˈvis-ə-rəl How to pronounce visceral (audio)
: of, relating to, or located on or among the viscera
visceral organs
compare parietal sense 1
viscerally adverb
Last Updated: - Updated example sentences
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