AskDefine | Define dissect

Dictionary Definition



1 cut open or cut apart; "dissect the bodies for analysis"
2 make a mathematical, chemical, or grammatical analysis of; break down into components or essential features; "analyze a specimen"; "analyze a sentence"; "analyze a chemical compound" [syn: analyze, analyse, break down, take apart] [ant: synthesize]

User Contributed Dictionary




  1. To study a dead animal's anatomy by cutting it apart; to perform a necropsy or an autopsy.
  2. To study a plant or other organism's anatomy similarly.
  3. To analyze an idea in detail by separating it into its parts.
  4. In the context of "transitive|anatomy|surgery": To separate muscles, organs, and so on without cutting into them or disrupting their architecture.
    Now dissect the triceps away from its attachment on the humerus.
  5. In the context of "transitive|pathology": Of an infection or foreign material, following the fascia separating muscles or other organs.

Derived terms

Extensive Definition

Dissection (also called anatomization) is usually the process of disassembling and observing something to determine its internal structure and as an aid to discerning the function and relationships of its components. It may refer also to some spontaneous natural process of disassembly as in aortic dissection.

In biology

Dissection is usually applied to the examination of plants and animals. The term is also used in relation to mechanisms, computer programs, written materials, etc., as a synonym for terms such as reverse engineering or literary deconstruction. Dissection is usually performed by students in courses of biology, botany and anatomy and in association with medical and arts studies.
Vivisection refers to the dissection of a living animal, often for the purposes of physiological investigation. However, in modern parlance the term is often used to refer to any type of experimentation in which animals are injured, with or without actual dissection.
Dissection is often performed as a part of determining a cause of death in autopsy (on humans) and necropsy (on animals) and is an intrinsic part of forensic medicine, such as would be practiced by a coroner.
High school students stereotypically dissect frogs, rats, or fetal pigs in science class, but the trend in the U.S. is towards allowing students to opt out of dissection activities or perform dissections electronically on the computer, with programs capable of performing virtual dissections on a variety of animals.


Early systematic human dissections were carried out by the Roman physicians Herophilus of Chalcedon and Erasistratus of Chios in the early part of the third century BC.Before and after this time investigators appeared to largely limit themselves to non human animals.
Later, human dissections were conducted by the Arabian physician Ibn Zuhr (Avenzoar) (1091-1161) in al-Andalus, followed by several other Arabian physicians: Saladin's physician Ibn Jumay in the 12th century, Abd-el-latif in Egypt circa 1200, and Ibn al-Nafis in Syria circa 1242. Mondino de Liuzzi is credited for developing systematic dissection and lecturing on anatomy while a barber-surgeon performed the actual dissection in the early 14th century, at which point medical professionals in Europe had begun to conduct post-mortem forensic investigations.

Tools used

The following are tools commonly used in biological dissection.
dissect in Danish: Dissektion
dissect in German: Dissektion
dissect in Spanish: Disección
dissect in French: Dissection
dissect in Icelandic: Krufning
dissect in Japanese: 解剖
dissect in Polish: Prosektorium
dissect in Romanian: Disecţie
dissect in Russian: Dissection
dissect in Swedish: Dissektion

Synonyms, Antonyms and Related Words

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