viv·​i·​sec·​tion ˌvi-və-ˈsek-shən How to pronounce vivisection (audio)
: the cutting of or operation on a living animal usually for physiological or pathological investigation
broadly : animal experimentation especially if considered to cause distress to the subject
: minute or pitiless examination or criticism
 How to pronounce vivisection (audio)
vivisectionist noun

Did you know?

Vivisection includes the Latin root sect, meaning "cut". The Greek physician Galen, who lived during the 2nd century A.D., practiced vivisection on live monkeys and dogs to learn such things as the role of the spinal cord in muscle activity and whether veins and arteries carry air or blood; his findings formed the basis of medical practice for more than a thousand years. Vivisection continues to be used in drug and medical research today, but often in secret, since it makes most people very uncomfortable and some groups are violently opposed to it.

Examples of vivisection in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web Unit 731 is also believed to have performed vivisections and frozen prisoners to death in tests of endurance. Mari Yamaguchi, USA TODAY, 24 July 2023 Mary Gaitskill is a novelist, essayist, and short-story writer celebrated by readers and critics (this one included) for her uncompromising acuity and clear-eyed vivisection of our mottled human nature. Alexandra Schwartz, The New Yorker, 14 Aug. 2022 Or how about in District 9 where an entire alien race is subjected to squalor, neglect, and vivisection? Kyle Munkittrick, Discover Magazine, 22 Oct. 2010 The title essay is arguably her masterpiece, a cool vivisection of a place and time when the center fell apart. Boris Kachka, Los Angeles Times, 13 Apr. 2023 Now, 25 years later, under the moniker Tanner Leatherstein, Yildiz is parlaying his insight into leather into an addictive TikTok presence involving entertaining vivisections of designer leather bags. Isabel Slone, Harper's BAZAAR, 7 Apr. 2023 The tactic contrasted with the more militant approach of, say, the Animal Liberation Front, whose members were more likely to don ski masks and open cages at a mink farm, or break equipment of a vivisection lab, remaining anonymous in order to strike again. Andrew Schwartz, The New Republic, 23 Feb. 2022 His critique of scientistic imperialism in promiscuous, cruel vivisection finds a resonant echo in our time in our better protocols for animal experimentation, as John P. Gluck in his Voracious Science and Vulnerable Animals (2016) has movingly shown. M. D. Aeschliman, National Review, 5 Dec. 2020 In the 1930s, the Japanese army embarked upon what would become a formidably efficient bioweapons program, the first of its kind to make use of extensive human experimentation and vivisection (4). Rebecca Kreston, Discover Magazine, 11 June 2013 See More

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

Word History


Latin vivus + English section

First Known Use

1707, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Time Traveler
The first known use of vivisection was in 1707

Dictionary Entries Near vivisection

Cite this Entry

“Vivisection.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 1 Dec. 2023.

Kids Definition


: the operating or experimenting on a living animal for scientific or medical study

Medical Definition


vivi·​sec·​tion ˌviv-ə-ˈsek-shən, ˈviv-ə-ˌ How to pronounce vivisection (audio)
: the cutting of or operation on a living animal usually for physiological or pathological investigation
broadly : animal experimentation especially if considered to cause distress or result in injury or death to the subject
vivisect verb
vivisectional adjective
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