heartstring

noun heart·string \ ˈhärt-ˌstriŋ \
Updated on: 8 Nov 2017

Definition of heartstring

1 obsolete :a nerve once believed to sustain the heart
2 :the deepest emotions or affections usually used in plural
  • That movie really pulls at your heartstrings.

heartstring was our Word of the Day on 02/14/2013. Hear the podcast!

Recent Examples of heartstring from the Web

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'heartstring.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

heartstring Has a Medical History

Before a song or movie or heart-shaped card accompanied by a box of chocolates could tug at your heartstrings, the job was more likely to be accomplished by a surgeon: the word heartstring used to refer to a nerve believed to sustain the heart. You might recognize the word's second syllable in the term "hamstring," which refers to both a group of tendons at the back of the knee and to any of three muscles at the backs of the upper legs. It's also apparent in a rare dialect term for the Achilles' tendon: "heel string." And in light of these terms, it's not surprising to know that "string" itself was at one time used independently to refer to cords like tendons and ligaments.

First Known Use of heartstring

15th century



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