break someone’s heart: Idiom Meaning and Origin

What does ‘break someone's heart’ mean?

The idiom "break someone's heart" means to cause someone intense emotional pain or sadness, usually by ending a romantic relationship or betraying their trust.

Idiom Explorer

Decoding Devastation

The idiom "break someone's heart" is a common phrase used to convey deep emotional pain caused by a romantic disappointment or loss. It has been widely used in the English language for centuries and is understood by most native speakers.

One interesting fact about this idiom is that the word "heart" has been used metaphorically to represent emotions since ancient times. The heart has long been associated with love and feelings, making it a fitting symbol for emotional pain.

The word "break" in this idiom comes from the Old English word "brecan," which means to fracture or shatter. When used in the context of "breaking someone's heart," it suggests a level of devastation that goes beyond mere disappointment. It implies a complete rupture of one's emotional well-being.

Similar idiomatic expressions can be found in other languages, such as "romper el corazón" in Spanish, "briser le cœur de quelqu'un" in French, and "jemandem das Herz brechen" in German. This indicates that the concept of heartbreak is universal and transcends cultural boundaries.

Furthermore, the idiom is often used in literary and artistic works to evoke strong emotions in the audience. It has been featured in countless songs, poems, novels, and movies, highlighting its significance in portraying the depth of human emotions.

Love turned to heartbreak, sadness enveloped their relationship.

As for the possible origins of the idiom, there isn't a definitive source pinpointed. However, it is likely that the phrase emerged from a combination of common language usage and cultural associations with the heart as the seat of emotions.

Now, let's explore how the idiom "break someone's heart" is related to other idioms, such as "break someone's back," "steal someone's heart," and "eat one's heart out."

The idiom "break someone's back" is used to describe an extreme amount of effort or strain that is placed on someone. It can be seen as a figurative expression of physical pain and exhaustion, similar to how "break someone's heart" represents emotional pain. Both idioms emphasize the intensity and impact of the experience, whether it be physical or emotional.

On the other hand, "steal someone's heart" is a positive idiom that refers to capturing someone's affection or love. It is often used to describe how someone falls in love or becomes infatuated with another person. While "break someone's heart" focuses on the negative aspects of love and loss, "steal someone's heart" highlights the joy and enchantment of falling in love.

Lastly, "eat one's heart out" is an idiom that means to be consumed by grief, jealousy, or longing. It expresses the feeling of intense emotional pain and longing, similar to how "break someone's heart" conveys deep sadness and despair. Both idioms capture the debilitating effects of unrequited love or longing for something that cannot be attained.

The idiom "break someone's heart" is a deeply ingrained expression in the English language that conveys intense emotional pain caused by romantic disappointment or loss. Its metaphorical usage, widespread understanding, and cross-cultural variations demonstrate its significance and universality. While the precise origins may remain a mystery, the power of this idiom to capture human suffering and longing endures.

Example usage

Examples of how the idiom "break someone's heart" can be used in a sentence:

  1. She broke his heart when she ended their long-term relationship.
  2. It will break her heart to hear that her best friend is moving away.
  3. His decision to quit the team broke his parents' hearts.

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