heart·​string | \ ˈhärt-ˌstriŋ How to pronounce heartstring (audio) \

Definition of heartstring

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

Keep scrolling for more

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.

Examples of heartstring in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web From Alicia Keys and Boyz II Men to Demi Lovato, performances at the 62nd Grammy Awards tugged at our heartstrings. Hannah Yasharoff, USA TODAY, "Alicia Keys opens up about hosting the Grammys hours after learning of Kobe Bryant's death," 29 Jan. 2020 Andreas RentzGetty Images Lana Del Rey is known for making music that tugs at the heartstrings. Bianca Rodriguez, Marie Claire, "Is Lana Del Rey Dating a Hot Cop?," 26 Jan. 2020 The Giants, who are experts at using history to tug at the fans’ heartstrings, were planning something special at Oracle Park for their home opener against the Dodgers, which was to be Friday. Henry Schulman, SFChronicle.com, "Giants opened their ballpark 20 years ago to a thud. Then the party started," 2 Apr. 2020 Just like the movie, the live production tugs at heartstrings and features both emotional and laugh-out-loud moments. Melody Chiu, PEOPLE.com, "Aubrie Sellers on Going Blonde for Love Actually Live: 'I Feel Like a Completely Different Person'," 18 Dec. 2019 Meanwhile, a gentle and sparse soundtrack from the avant garde songwriter Julia Holter refrains from plucking at our heartstrings, keeping the tone of Never Rarely Sometimes Always from veering into melodrama. Josephine Livingstone, The New Republic, "Planned Parenthood Is the Real Star of Never Rarely Sometimes Always," 8 Apr. 2020 In Onward, Pixar has once again produced a marvelous movie with tons of laughs that tugs at your heartstrings. Nina Huang, EW.com, "Meghan Markle's return to Hollywood is now streaming on Disney+ (alongside more new titles)," 4 Apr. 2020 John Crowley’s immigrant love story tugs at the heartstrings and then some thanks to enormously likable performances from Saoirse Ronan and Emory Cohen. Ben Flanagan | Bflanagan@al.com, al, "25 movies about Ireland and Irish people you should watch on St. Patrick’s Day," 17 Mar. 2020 That’s because novelty mugs are made to pull on your heartstrings and remind you of happier times. Alex Delany, Bon Appétit, "Save Your Tasteful Glazes and Funny Handles, I Like My Coffee From a Novelty Mug," 23 Mar. 2020

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.

See More

First Known Use of heartstring

15th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about heartstring

Time Traveler for heartstring

Time Traveler

The first known use of heartstring was in the 15th century

See more words from the same century

Listen to Our Podcast about heartstring

Statistics for heartstring

Cite this Entry

“Heartstring.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/heartstring. Accessed 14 Aug. 2020.

Comments on heartstring

What made you want to look up heartstring? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


Test Your Vocabulary

Original Meanings Quiz

  • rembrandt painting a young scholar and his tutor
  • Which of the following is the earliest known sense of the word awe?
Spell It

Can you spell these 10 commonly misspelled words?

Dictionary Devil

Test Your Knowledge - and learn some interesting things along the way.

Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!