Viscus and viscera



Any particular usage for the words viscus and viscera?



The word viscera, the plural of viscus, refers to the soft internal organs of the body, especially those contained within the abdominal and thoracic cavities (American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, Houghton Mifflin, 1996 p.1996), such as the heart, liver, and stomach. An example would be:

In this disease, the capillaries of the skin and viscera are narrowed.

The plural form, viscera, is used much more frequently than the singular form, viscus, which is quite rare. Many dictionaries do not even list the singular form, viscus; indeed, Webster's New Twentieth Century Dictionary (Collins World, 1977) defines viscus merely as "singular of viscera. [Rare.]," while viscera has a full definition.

Dr. Mark Multach, Chief of the Division of General Medicine at the University of Miami, says this about viscus: "Viscus is rarely used other than to refer to the bowel (hollow viscus). I don't recall ever hearing any other abdominal organ referred to that way."

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