Merriam-Webster Word of the Day: Heartstring

The Merriam-Webster Word of the Day is heartstring. Read on for what it means, how it’s used, and more.

What It Means

Heartstring is used, usually in the plural, to refer to someone’s deepest emotions or affections.

// The movie’s emotional ending really pulls at your heartstrings.


“You’ll laugh, you’ll cry, you’ll be amazed at the talent on stage. These six actresses definitely know how to effortlessly make you chuckle while also tugging at your heartstrings.” — Paul Lockwood, The Northwest Herald (Crystal Lake, Illinois), 22 Jun. 2022

Did You Know?

Before a love song 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 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 bodily cords like tendons and ligaments.

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