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One of the most fascinating things about the English language is the depth of meaning that certain words and phrases can have.
Take the word “heart” for example. “Heart” has two major meanings for native language speakers. First, it refers to a major organ that keeps blood pumping through our bodies. Second, well, it is a symbol of love – especially romantic love.
Because the heart is such an important organ and love is such a vital feeling that we all long to feel, there are many ways that English speakers use the word “heart” in their daily speech.
The English language is full of English idioms about the heart which refer both to the life-giving function it performs and the feelings it has come to symbolize. The following are some important and common English idioms about hearts that you will surely love to use.
Meaning: Caused emotional distress
This is maybe the most commonly known English idioms about the heart. You’ve probably heard this in romantic movies or television dramas.
When someone says that something or someone is “breaking my heart” you are experiencing emotional distress because of what is happening. Of course, this is commonly used to describe sadness and distress because of a romantic setback, like if your significant other wanted to break up with you.
You can also say something is “breaking your heart” if it is very sad. Like if you see a documentary about famine or the plight of refugees.
Meaning: Changed my mind
When someone uses this English idiom, they are saying that they are going against a decision that they previously made.
Heartbeats are quick and steady and when you say that you will be there “in a heartbeat” you are promising to get there as quick as possible.
It is also a way to pledge your help and support whenever someone needs it.
Meaning: Startled or surprised
If someone is startled or surprised by events or by good or bad news, they might use one of these English idioms about the heart.
Meaning: To give up
If you “lose heart”, you no longer believe that you can accomplish something or that something is for you. You have lost hope and are ready to give up.
Meaning: Succeeded in love
If you “win” someone’s heart then you successfully gained their love. This is usually used with regard to romantic love and romantic relationships.
You can also say that you “stole” someone’s heart, it pretty much means the same thing: You won at love.
Meaning: A good person
This is one of those English idioms about the heart that is used to describe a person. This is actually a very flattering phrase as it is meant to describe someone who is good and kind.
Meaning: A cruel person, unsympathetic
This is the opposite of having a “heart of gold”. Someone with a heart of stone is considered cold and cruel.
Meaning: To have good intentions
If someone means well or is trying to be helpful, you can use this to describe them.
Meaning: Disagree strenuously
If you have your “heart set against” something, you don’t agree or don’t approve.
Meaning: To really want something
If you have your “heart set on” something, like a dress or a job, it means that you really want it. Nothing else will do or make you happy.
Meaning: I promise!
When someone says this phrase, they are basically making a promise or a pledge.
Meaning: Have pity or show sympathy
This can be said laughingly if someone said a slightly cruel joke at your expense. It can also be said sincerely if you are trying to get someone to empathize with you or someone else.
Meaning: Give everything, be enthusiastic
If someone says that they will give their “heart and soul” to an endeavor, they are pledging to give their all.
Meaning: Tell someone your feelings
If you “pour your heart out” to someone, you tell them everything that you are feeling. It also means that you are telling them a truth that you had been keeping to yourself.
Meaning: Share an intimate conversation
If someone wants to have a nice long chat with you, they might ask if you can have a “heart to heart”.
Meaning: Be envious or be jealous
When you hear someone say this, they are basically gloating over their good fortune.
You can say it among friends as a joke, but be careful about using it among people who don’t know you well. They could take offense or write you off as a braggart.
Meaning: Do what you want
When you “follow your heart” you act or make a decision according to your feelings. This decision might not be the practical one, but it is the decision that really speaks to you.
Meaning: To be really sure about something
If you know in your “heart of hearts” that something is true, then you really believe it.
Meaning: Couldn’t do it
If you “don’t have the heart” to do something, you were unable to do something because it made you uncomfortable.
It’s also often used to mean that you were going to tell someone something that you knew would disappoint or make them sad and . . . you didn’t because you didn’t want to see them sad.
Meaning: Take something seriously
This idiom is used to say that you have heard and understood something and are going to take it really seriously.
This is one of those English idioms about the heart that you will probably only see in writing or hear in a formal setting. It’s a way to express sincerity, so it can be used to say that you are wishing someone all the best or are very happy for and proud of them.
Meaning: I feel very sorry for you, I am sympathetic to your situation
This is another of those English idioms about the heart that is mostly used in formal situations or in written correspondence. It is a way to say condolences and ask about their well being.
Meaning: Someone who is extremely empathetic
This might sound like it’s another one of those English idioms about the heart that sound like it’s flattering because it’s saying that you are basically a good person, but the implication is that you are “too good”.
“Bleeding heart” is usually said rather disparagingly or disapprovingly as it implies that you think that person is too generous and who is easily taken advantage of.
Meaning: Please help
You can ask someone if they can “find it in their heart” to help you out with a problem. This is commonly used by charitable institutions to ask someone to help them with their endeavor.
Meaning: Appealing for sympathy or asking for empathy
This is another of those English idioms about the heart that is used as a plea for sympathy or empathy. This is another phrase that is often used by charitable institutions if they are asking for donations or help with their projects.
Meaning: To understand the most important things
When you “get to the heart” of a problem or situation, you understand the most important aspects of it. You get to the core.
Meaning: Someone who shares your tastes and values
If you say that someone takes “after your own heart” you are implying that you get along because you are similar.
Meaning: To know very well or memorize
If you are studying for an exam and are sure you “know by heart” the subject, then you are confident that you know it very well.
Meaning: Be open about your feelings
This is another of those English idioms about hearts that are meant to describe someone. Someone with their “heart on their sleeve” is open about their feelings. They don’t bother hiding their true opinions.
If someone has a “heavy heart” they are filled with sorrow or are feeling intense regret.
If someone is said to have a “big heart” it means that they are thought to be loving and kind.
If someone is described as “faint of heart” they are thought of as cowardly.
Meaning: Resist feeling sympathy
This idiom describes the act of becoming callous. If someone is a “bleeding heart” they might be advised to do this.
When you say this, you are saying that you are very nervous or scared of someone.
Meaning: Startled or scared
If you say this about a situation like if someone came around the corner and almost bumped into you, you are saying that they scared or startled you.
Meaning: Felt disappointment or sadness
If you get bad or disappointing news, you can say that your “heart sunk” or your “heart sank”.
This English idiom describes someone who is youthful and childlike.
Meaning: Having fun
If someone is described as “light-hearted” they are playful and having fun. It can also describe an activity that someone finds fun.
English idioms are an important part of daily speech. Native English speakers will used idioms, along with slang words and expressions, to give voice to their feelings and present ideas.
It’s important that you learn these English idioms about hearts as native English speakers will use many of these in daily conversation. To keep the conversation flowing, you need to be able to look beyond the literal meaning or translation of the word to find the hidden, deeper, meanings.
Take this list of English idioms about the heart (which we have provided for you in a downloadable PDF) and try to memorize them. Better yet, show the list to an online native English speaking tutor who can not only help you understand their meaning better but who’s sure to have some other suggestions on English idioms about hearts that you would love to learn and use.
Breaking my heart, Have a change of heart, In a heartbeat, Lose heart, Steal/Win their heart, Have a heart of gold, Have a heart of stone, Heart in the right place, Heart set against, Heart set on, Cross my heart, Have a heart, Heart and soul
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