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visceral (VIS-er-uhl) adjective

1. Related to viscera.

2. Instinctive, not reasoning or intellectual.

3. Dealing with base emotions; earthy, crude.

[From Medieval Latin visceralis, from Latin viscera (internal organs), plural of viscus (flesh). From the belief that viscera were the seat of emotions.]

"Helms will not remain to torment his legions of enemies. But the visceral brand of politics he pioneered will probably never go away." Eleanor Clift and Matt Bai, Senator No's Last Stand, Newsweek (New York), Sep 3, 2001.

Ever met a woman who gave her heart away and yet didn't turn heartless? Or a man of short physique who was still big-hearted? Wonder how we may have a change of heart without ever having to go to a heart surgeon? There are people one could call lion-hearted, or those who have a chicken heart, yet they never had heart replacement surgery. There are times when we are warmhearted and on other occasions we might act with a cold heart, without any reference to our body temperature. We may come across a bleeding heart yet never call a cardiologist. Oh, how we use our heart as the metaphor for actions, emotions, intentions, and feelings!

And heart is not the only part of anatomy we use in this way. This week we'll look at more words for body parts that are used metaphorically. -Anu


In order that people may be happy in their work, these three things are needed: they must be fit for it; they must not do too much of it; and they must have a sense of success in it. -John Ruskin, author, art critic, and social reformer (1819-1900)

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