Wear one’s heart on one’s sleeve

Wear one’s heart on one’s sleeve is an idiom with an uncertain origin. An idiom is a word, group of words or phrase that has a figurative meaning that is not easily deduced from its literal definition. Often using descriptive imagery, common idioms are words and phrases used in the English language in order to convey a concise idea, and are often spoken or are considered informal or conversational. English idioms can illustrate emotion more quickly than a phrase that has a literal meaning, even when the etymology or origin of the idiomatic expression is lost. An idiom is a metaphorical figure of speech, and it is understood that it is not a use of literal language. Figures of speech have definitions and connotations that go beyond the literal meaning of the words. Mastery of the turn of phrase of an idiom or other parts of speech is essential for the English learner. Many English as a Second Language students do not understand idiomatic expressions such as in a blue moon, spill the beans, let the cat out of the bag, chin up, on the ball, barking up the wrong tree, kick the bucket, hit the nail on the head, under the weather, piece of cake, when pigs fly, and raining cats and dogs, as they attempt to translate them word for word, which yields only the literal meaning. In addition to learning vocabulary and grammar, one must understand the phrasing of the figurative language of idiomatic phrases in order to know English like a native speaker. We will examine the meaning of the idiom wear one’s heart on one’s sleeve, where it may have come from, and some examples of its use in sentences.

To wear one’s heart on one’s sleeve means to show one’s true emotions, to allow oneself to be vulnerable, to be honest about one’s feelings. The origin of the phrase to wear one’s heart on one’s sleeve is generally attributed to a jousting custom popular during the Middle Ages. Knights traditionally wore colors or some type of insignia on their arms to signify the ladies for whom they were participating in the jousting tournament. However, many dispute this origin story. We do know that the term to wear one’s heart on one’s sleeve was used in a figurative sense by at least 1604, because it appears in the play Othello written by William Shakespeare: “But I will wear my heart upon my sleeve / For daws to peck at: I am not what I am.” Related phrases are wears one’s heart on one’s sleeve, wore one’s heart on one’s sleeve, wearing one’s heart on one’s sleeve.


The next time you want to wear your heart on your sleeve, or empower yourself and your friends to seek what you deserve romantically, consider wearing a “dump him” piece of clothing. (Teen Vogue)

“You wear your heart on your sleeve because the children are just amazing because sometimes they’ve never even seen a horse and they walk in here and their face lights up like a Christmas tree,” Chris Dunn said. (First Coast News)

“The man wore his heart on his sleeve and gave everyone a piece of it.” (The Minneapolis Star Tribune)

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