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
-shə-nᵊl 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.

Example Sentences

Recent Examples on the Web In the register of his voice, the calm vivisection of British actions can mount by degrees into the more insistent tones of a man who has truth on his side. Cullen Murphy, The Atlantic, 15 June 2022 Other readers will hear in this vivisection of a dysfunctional family a Franzenesque attention to the great forces pulsing through American culture. Ron Charles, Washington Post, 31 May 2022 Only Charles’s second wife, Camilla, whom Brown depicts as horse-y and unflappable, escapes royal vivisection. Washington Post, 23 Apr. 2022 The man’s fate and the woman’s are said to have been sealed by a secret ritual; vivisection is supposed to be the man’s ultimate act of love toward her. Emmanuel Ordóñez Angulo, The New York Review of Books, 14 Jan. 2021 His early novel The Sea and Poison (1957; English translation, 1995) treats the medical vivisection of American prisoners of war and its psychological effects on a doctor involved and was made into a successful Japanese film in the mid 1980s. M. D. Aeschliman, National Review, 12 Sep. 2021 Chiefs receiver Sammy Watkins beat Peters one-on-one to convert on third-and-9 as the Baltimore defensive front failed to put any pressure on Mahomes, who then finished his vivisection with a nifty shovel pass to Anthony Sherman for touchdown No. 2. Childs Walker,, 29 Sep. 2020 After spending years performing comedic vivisection on the American political system with Veep, creator Armando Iannucci is back on HBO with Avenue 5. Kristen Baldwin,, 9 Jan. 2020 Her father had been a madman who practiced vivisection on human beings; the cruel scientist’s mistress — and Harriet’s mother — was a partly black Creole, who had inherited a taste for blood from the bite of a vampire bat. Michael Dirda, Washington Post, 29 Oct. 2019 See More

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

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 29 Nov. 2022.

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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