I understand that "visceral" with respect to a reaction or feeling is a very intense one. But I haven't found an authoritative source that describes a visceral reaction as being an exclusively bad one. Examples:

Visceral = bad?

  • Seeing an intruder in your home.
  • Be suddenly and intensely repulsed by someone's comment.

Visceral = good?

  • Being moved to tears after an unexpected photo of something good.
  • Figuratively having your wind knocked out in a "love at first sight" situation.

Sorry my examples may not be as good as they could be. Does visceral mean just a bad feeling or can it mean a good feeling in your gut too?

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    What do the dictionaries say about the word visceral and what about those definitions would you like help in understanding? – Jim Sep 14 '14 at 1:37
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    Why do you think it would have a bad or good connotation? – curiousdannii Sep 14 '14 at 2:10
  • I used it with a good connotation once and was told it was exclusively with a bad connotation. I believed that person until I looked it up in the OED online (subscription version). No mention of good or bad. – tralston Sep 14 '14 at 2:18

The viscera are your gut, intestines, liver, kidneys, and so on -- your entrails.

A visceral reaction is one which somehow concerns your viscera. You can feel them as bodily sensations.

  • It can mean a gut reaction. ("I knew he was the one who did it").
  • It can mean a feeling consequential to an autonomic reaction (physical heartache, heart-wrenching lovelorn anguish, stomach-twisting grief, feeling sick at the sight of some horrific scene, an adrenaline rush on a fairground ride, "butterflies" in your stomach, "bricking it")

Given our origins as a species, and ultimate fate as individuals, they rarely positive, but certainly can be. Similarly, they need not be intense, but usually are.

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