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Abdomen vs Belly vs Stomach vs Paunch vs Gut

Abdomen, belly, stomach, paunch and gut all are synonyms when naming the front part of the human trunk below the chest.

What’s the difference?

In technical usage abdomen more specifically denotes the cavity below the diaphragm (and sometimes above the brim of the pelvis) together with the structures in that cavity and the walls (often the front wall) enclosing it.

  • He was suffering from pains in his abdomen.
  • Soak a small towel in the liquid, wring it out, then apply to the abdomen.

Stomach in nontechnical use is interchangeable with abdomen but technically it is restricted to the saccular abdominal organ in which the earlier processes of digestion take place.

  • It’s not a good idea to drink (= alcohol) on an empty stomach (= without having eaten anything).

Belly and paunch are decidedly informal terms that, when used in place of abdomen, suggest roundness and protuberance.

  • She laid her hands on her swollen belly.
  • His once lean figure was developing a paunch.

Gut in technical use denotes the alimentary canal or one of its parts.

  • Meat stays in the gut longer than vegetable matter.

In general use it is interchangeable with belly or paunch but in the plural, especially when designating the abdominal contents (viscera, intestines), it is usually considered vulgar although the corresponding verb is freely used of the evisceration of a carcass for food (gut a herring).

  • His gut sagged out over his belt.
  • It is not always necessary to gut the fish prior to freezing.