Liver: Definition, Functions & Structure

Your next lesson will play in 10 seconds
  • 0:26 The Liver: A Vital Organ
  • 0:46 Characteristics of the Liver
  • 1:48 Functions of the Liver
  • 3:12 Diseases of the Liver
  • 3:47 Lesson Summary
Create An Account
To Start This Course Today
Used by over 10 million students worldwide
Create An Account
Try it free for 5 days
Lesson Transcript
Instructor: John Williams
The liver is a vital organ that is responsible for many of the processes that keep us alive. This lesson will discuss the key functions of the liver, its location in the body, and the diseases that can affect it.

The Liver: A Vital Organ

The human body is a fascinating structure, composed of many different parts working together for the purpose of keeping us alive. Within the human body are multiple organs, which are large structures designed to perform certain functions. Many of the organs in the body are familiar to most people. The heart, for example, is used to pump blood throughout the body. The lungs are used to breathe in oxygen and remove carbon dioxide.

However, one of the most important organs in the body is also one of the least understood. It is an organ that is vital for digestion. It is an organ that protects us from harmful substances. It's one of the organs that we cannot live without. That organ is the liver, and in this lesson, we will take a look at this valuable part of our bodies.

Characteristics of the Liver

The liver is located superolateral, or above and to the side, of the stomach. It is found in the abdominal cavity of the body, which is where many of the internal organs reside, and is inferior to, or below, the lungs.

The adult liver weighs between 3 and 4 pounds. It is the largest internal organ in the body, and is second to the skin as the largest organ overall. It has a rubbery texture and is reddish-brown in color. One of the most unique characteristics of the liver is that it has the ability to, in some cases, regenerate, or regrow, different sections of itself in the event of damage.

The liver has a triangular shape and is divided into four lobes. The left and right anatomical lobes are visible when viewing the liver from the front, while the quadrate and caudate lobes are visible when viewed from the underside. These lobes are divided further into smaller functional sections, called lobules. These lobules have various functions and contribute to processes we'll discuss next.

Functions of the Liver

The liver has several major functions in the body. First, the liver is responsible for producing enzymes and solutions necessary for digestion. This includes the production of bile, which helps with the breakdown of fat from our food. The liver is also responsible for the storage of sugars for energy use. Glucose, a simple sugar used by the body for energy, is stored as glycogen in the liver until needed. During emergency situations, our bodies will tap into the stored glucose to provide additional energy for survival.

Another major function of the liver is to detoxify and remove harmful substances in the bloodstream. Drinking alcohol, for example, is poisonous to the human body. However, you probably wouldn't be able to tell it based on how much we, as humans, consume it. The liver is responsible for processing alcohol so that it does not cause harm to the rest of our bodies. Additionally, the liver will also break down and process other drugs that enter our system, including medications and recreational drugs.

Other functions of the liver include:

To unlock this lesson you must be a Member.
Create your account

Unlock Your Education

See for yourself why 10 million people use

Become a member and start learning now.
Become a Member

Already a member? Log In

Earning College Credit

Did you know… We have over 49 college courses that prepare you to earn credit by exam that is accepted by over 2,000 colleges and universities. You can test out of the first two years of college and save thousands off your degree. Anyone can earn credit-by-exam regardless of age or education level.

To learn more, visit our Earning Credit Page

Transferring credit to the school of your choice

Not sure what college you want to attend yet? has thousands of articles about every imaginable degree, area of study and career path that can help you find the school that's right for you.

Click "next lesson" whenever you finish a lesson and quiz. Got It
You now have full access to our lessons and courses. Watch the lesson now or keep exploring. Got It
You're 25% of the way through this course! Keep going at this rate,and you'll be done before you know it.
The first step is always the hardest! Congrats on finishing your first lesson.
Way to go! If you watch at least 30 minutes of lessons each day you'll master your goals before you know it.
Congratulations on earning a badge for watching 10 videos but you've only scratched the surface. Keep it up!
You've just watched 20 videos and earned a badge for your accomplishment!
You've just earned a badge for watching 50 different lessons. Keep it up, you're making great progress!
You just watched your 100th video lesson. You have earned a badge for this achievement!
Congratulations! You just finished watching your 200th lesson and earned a badge!
Congratulations! You just finished watching your 300th lesson and earned a badge!
You are a superstar! You have earned the prestigious 500 video lessons watched badge.
Incredible. You have just entered the exclusive club and earned the 1000 videos watched badge.
You have earned a badge for watching 20 minutes of lessons.
You have earned a badge for watching 50 minutes of lessons.
You have earned a badge for watching 100 minutes of lessons.
You have earned a badge for watching 250 minutes of lessons.
You have earned a badge for watching 500 minutes of lessons.
You have earned a badge for watching 1000 minutes of lessons.