I was drawn to the word, “hearts-and-minds diplomacy” in New York Time’s (June 8) article titled, “From China, With Pragmatism.” written by an American Fulbright lecturer living in Beijing:

At a recent lunch with United States Embassy officers and local Chinese intellectuals, we had a complete cultural breakdown over red envelopes. When one embassy officer working his best “hearts-and-minds diplomacy” suggested that the Chinese switch the giving of hongbao to after the successful operation, rather than before, the Chinese were struck dumb with astonishment. Of course, you have to give the hongbao beforehand because it motivates the doctor. http://opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com/author/stephen-t-asma

I’ve been under the impression that ‘heart and mind’ can be used for personal emotions, like “I dedicated whole my heart and mind to her.” But when I consulted “heart and mind” with online dictionaries, it came out mostly (if not always) in plural form as “the hearts and minds (of sb)” and was defined as;

The complete support of a group of people. example, I thought the president could have done a better job of reaching the hearts and minds of the American people in his speech on television yesterday. – Free Dictionary.

And in Wikipedia;

  1. Winning hearts and minds, the idea of persuading enemies instead of defeating them by force
  2. Hearts and Minds (Vietnam), a strategy of the South Vietnamese and United States governments to defeat the Viet Cong insurgency during the Vietnam War.

Is the word “heart and mind” always used in plural form, and in predominantly in political or business context against a group of people (nation / enemies) like “Hearts-and-minds diplomacy / strategy/ operation” more than for the expression of personal emotion such as endearment and devotion to a person, or purpose?

  • I don't believe I've ever heard or seen that phrase used in the singular(s) until reading the above.
    – Rupe
    Jun 10, 2014 at 22:46

2 Answers 2


Yes, singular heart and mind, and even winning (someone's) heart and mind can be employed in the natural sense of “emotional and intellectual postures/attitudes/adherence/dedication”. A glance at Google Books shows scores of such uses. Here, for example, are some book titles:

Heart and Mind: The Varieties of Moral Experience
Rush and Philosophy: Heart and Mind United
Freeing the Heart and Mind: Introduction to the Buddhist Path
Reconciling the Heart and Mind

The same is true of plural hearts and minds:

Educating Hearts and Minds: Reflections on Japanese Preschool and Elementary Education Hearts and Minds: How Our Brains are Hardwired for Relationships

It is only in the context of a strategy, whether political or military or economic, that hearts and minds is likely to bear an allusion to the policies adopted by the British, and subsequently the Americans, in Southeast Asia in the 50s and 60s.


You can use a singular "heart and mind". You wouldn't be the first. There are some translations of the bible that use it quite a lot.

Now, during the 1960s, the plural form "hearts and minds" came to become a bit of a buzz-phrase first by the British in the Federation of Malaya (as was) and then by the Americans in South Viet Nam (as was) and since then in other campaigns by various groups since.

It wasn't coined as a phrase as such, and could just as often be "minds and hearts", but it became a buzz-phrase through heavy use.

As such, in the plural it also has that particular meaning related to politics, diplomacy and the sort of peaceful activities a government might engage in with a population alongside potential or actual military action. It's also a sense that will be a topic for discussion in and of itself, and often newsworthy, meaning you'll find more examples of this in certain searches than others.

But in the singular it does exist, and is much as you interpreted it.

  • Yes, that's the history as I recall it.
    – user63230
    Jun 11, 2014 at 1:31

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