Wear Your Heart on Your Sleeve (Origin)

by Craig Shrives

What Is the Origin of the Saying "Wear Your Heart on Your Sleeve"?

The term "wear your heart on your sleeve" means to express your emotions openly.
Wear Your Heart on Your Sleeve (Origin)

Examples of Use:

  • Adam made it clear what he thought about Janet. He wears his heart on his sleeve.
  • I am terrible at poker. My face is always readable. I definitely wear my heart on my sleeve.
  • Be kind to her! She wears her heart on her sleeve.
This idiom originates from jousting tournaments by medieval knights, probably around the 14th century. Back then, it was customary for a knight to dedicate his performance to a specific lady. To show he was her "champion," the knight would wear a personal item (usually a scarf) around his arm. This would be a public display of his romantic intentions towards the lady. This is why "sleeve" is chosen in the proverb. As for "heart," the heart has long been a symbol of emotion, particularly love.

The term was popularized by William Shakespeare's villainous character Iago (a senior officer in the Venetian army under the command of General Othello):
  • "I will wear my heart upon my sleeve." (from the tragedy "Othello" written circa 1603)

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See Also

What are idioms? What is figurative language? A list of common grammar errors A list of easily confused words A list of sayings and proverbs

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