Obama Is 'Heartened by the Level of Engagement'

'To inspire with fresh zeal, hope, or courage'

Lookups for hearten spiked on January 30, 2017, following a statement issued by former President Obama’s spokesperson regarding public protests of President Trump’s controversial executive order banning people from seven majority Muslim countries from entering the United States:

President Obama is heartened by the level of engagement taking place in communities around the country.

Hearten means “to cause (someone) to feel more cheerful or hopeful.” Its definition in the Unabridged dictionary adds, “to inspire with fresh zeal, hope, or courage” and “to rouse from indifference or discouragement.” It comes from heart (“to give heart to”), defined in this case as “courage or enthusiasm especially when maintained during a difficult situation.” Heart goes back to the Old English from before the 12th century, but hearten, constructed by adding the verbal ending -en (think of _sharpen, lengthen, embolden) in the 1500s. A meaning now considered archaic refers to more literal fortifying and strengthening: “to restore fertility or strength to (as land).”

Shakespeare used hearten in a speech from Henry VI, Part 3:

My royal father, cheer these noble lords,

And hearten those that fight in your defence:

Unsheath your sword, good father; cry Saint George!

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