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bowels pl (plural only)

  1. The deepest or innermost part.
    down in the bowels of the Earth
    • c. 1593 (date written), William Shakespeare, “The Tragedy of Richard the Third: []”, in Mr. William Shakespeares Comedies, Histories, & Tragedies [] (First Folio), London: [] Isaac Iaggard, and Ed[ward] Blount, published 1623, →OCLC, [Act III, scene iv]:
      O momentary grace of mortal men, / Which we more hunt for than the grace of God! / Who builds his hopes in air of your good looks, / Lives like a drunken sailor on a mast, / Ready, with every nod, to tumble down / Into the fatal bowels of the deep.
    • 1749, Henry Fielding, chapter XII, in The History of Tom Jones, a Foundling, volumes (please specify |volume=I to VI), London: A[ndrew] Millar, [], →OCLC, book V, page 264:
      Here we cannot suppress a pious Wish, that all Quarrels were to be decided by those Weapons only, with which Nature, knowing what is proper for us, hath supplied us; and that cold Iron was to be used in digging no Bowels, but those of the Earth.
    • 1851 November 14, Herman Melville, Moby-Dick; or, The Whale, 1st American edition, New York, N.Y.: Harper & Brothers; London: Richard Bentley, →OCLC, page 98:
      At length, when the last pint is casked, and all is cool, then the great hatchways are unsealed, the bowels of the ship are thrown open, and down go the casks to their final rest in the sea.
    • 1922, D. H. Lawrence, chapter 6, in Aaron’s Rod, London: Martin Secker, page 69:
      The station was half deserted, half rowdy, several fellows were drunk, shouting and crowing. Down there in the bowels of London, after midnight, everything seemed horrible and unnatural.
    • 1973, “Swamp Witch”, in Jim Stafford (lyrics), Jim Stafford, performed by Jim Stafford:
      Some say the plague was brought by Hattie
      There was talk of a hangin' too.
      But the talk got shackled by the howls and the cackles
      From the bowels of the Black bayou.
  2. The concept or quality that defines something at its very core.
    the project's bowels
  3. The intestines.
  4. Compassion, sympathy.
    • 1599, William Shakespeare, “The Life of Henry the Fift”, in Mr. William Shakespeares Comedies, Histories, & Tragedies [] (First Folio), London: [] Isaac Iaggard, and Ed[ward] Blount, published 1623, →OCLC, [Act II, scene iv]:
      Therefore in fierce tempest is he coming, / In thunder and in earthquake, like a Jove, / That, if requiring fail, he will compel; / And bids you, in the bowels of the Lord, / Deliver up the crown, and to take mercy / On the poor souls for whom this hungry war / Opens his vasty jaws
    • 1611, The Holy Bible, [] (King James Version), London: [] Robert Barker, [], →OCLC, Philippians 2:1-2:
      If there be therefore any consolation in Christ, if any comfort of love, if any fellowship of the Spirit, if any bowels and mercies, Fulfil ye my joy, that ye be likeminded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind.
    • 1728, [John] Gay, The Beggar’s Opera. [], London: [] John Watts, [], →OCLC, Act II, scene ix, page 29:
      Have you no Bovvels, no Tenderneſs, my dear Lucy, to ſee a Huſband in theſe Circumſtances?
    • 1930, Mary Gaunt, chapter 15, in Joan of the Pilchard[1]:
      ‘If I gave in to you, Reynell,’ said Bligh quietly, so quietly they could not tell whether he felt any pity for the boy or not, ‘the same plea could be put forth by sixteen others in less than half an hour,’ and he dropped his chin on his breast again as if there the discussion ended.
      ‘I told you he had no bowels,’ said Ledward.
  5. (obsolete) The body as the source of offspring.
    • 1611, The Holy Bible, [] (King James Version), London: [] Robert Barker, [], →OCLC, 2 Samuel 16:11:
      And David said to Abishai, and to all his servants, Behold, my son, which came forth of my bowels, seeketh my life: how much more now may this Benjamite do it?
    • 1751, Thomas Skinner, “A Sermon preach’d at the Ma’nor of Peace, in the County of Hampshire, on May the 9th, 1751” in Alfred Baylies Page, Reverend Grindall Rawson and his Ministry, 1907, p. 9,[2]
      Had you been their natural Parents, and they the Children of your own Bowels, Methinks, you could not have Contributed much more Bountifully to their Assistance []
    • 1845, Robert Browning, “The Bishop Orders his Tomb at St. Praxed’s Church”, in Dramatic Romances and Lyrics[3], lines 63–64:
      What do they whisper thee,
      Child of my bowels, Anselm?

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  1. plural of bowel

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