• eviscerate •
Pronunciation: i-vis-sêr-ayt • Hear it!
Part of Speech: Verb, transitive
Meaning: To gut, disembowel, remove the essential parts of, both literally and figuratively.
Notes: Eviscerate in its original sense has slipped out of the language except in cases of the most heinous crimes or the preparation of animal carcasses for edibles. It is now used mostly in its figurative sense: to eviscerate an article or a speech. This word has a large family: an adjective, eviscerative, and two nouns, eviscerator and evisceration.
In Play: In moments of great stress, we might use this word hyperbolically: "Landsdorf, I could eviscerate you if I could stand the sight and stench of the offal that it would produce!" Other figurative uses of this word are less blood-curdling: "The movie eviscerates the novel: several main characters and actions that are crucial to understanding the plot were removed."
Word History: Today's word is taken from evisceratus, the past participle of eviscerare "to disembowel". The Latin verb is made up of e(x)- "out" + viscera "internal organs". Viscera is the plural of viscus. The adjective created from this word is viscosus, from which English made both viscous and viscose. From the plural we got visceral, as in "I have a visceral feeling we are being watched"—a more sophisticated way of saying, "I have a gut feeling." The original Proto-Indo-European word from which viscus derived meant "flexible, twisting". But once that word was applied to innards, the focus shifted from this trait to the gooiness, slipperiness that we see today in viscosity. (Let's send William Hupy an uneviscerated "thank you" for suggesting today's very Good Word.)
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