I've seen the phrase have a lot heart few times and got curious about what that means. However, since dictionaries do not give sufficient clues, I'm here for your help.

That man must have a lot of heart, compassion, and humility.

A. What does this having a lot of heart mean, and B. how did it happen to have such meaning?

  • I have noticed that idiom used in all of the ways I see mentioned here. I have also heard it used with a different meaning, very long ago(I wasn't actually there before someone pokes his head in and says "you heard something in Medieval Europe? That would make you umm... at least 1000 years old! so no daft responses like that thank you.) in the Medieval age. Back then, it meant you had a very courageous, and/or valorous spirit or will. – user196926 Sep 18 '16 at 23:08

To have a lot of heart means to be particularly empathic, compassionate or loving. Although I can't say I've seen a cast-iron origin for this specific idiom, it likely stems from the heart traditionally being used as a symbol of love and caring. See examples such as "[The Grinch's small] heart grew three sizes that day" in The Grinch.


To have a heart:

If someone has a heart, they are kind and sympathetic. If you say, 'Have a heart' to someone, you are asking them to be understanding and sympathetic.

Source: http://www.usingenglish.com/reference/idioms/have+a+heart.html

to show kindness and sympathy: I can't teach somebody to have a heart.

Source: http://idioms.thefreedictionary.com/have+a+heart

I don't know the idiom's etymology, though.

  • Ah, I thought a lot might add some other meanings. – hjjg200 Feb 2 '16 at 22:53

A: Notice Definitions 3,4,5,6 http://www.thefreedictionary.com/heart All pointing to "heart" in a metaphoric sense as the seat of things like emotion, strength, and courage.

To "have a lot of heart" means to have a lot of these deep inner resources. (and is not limited to compassion as some might assume)

B: This metaphoric use of "heart" has a long tradition in English. Great Hearted from the 14th century, is almost identical to "a lot of heart."

Several common English words are borrowings from other languages that already used this same metaphor. The French word for "heart" is "cœur" whose root can be found in courage, encourage, and discourage.

A few other "inner workings" have similar metaphoric meaning, like Nerve & Guts


it can also mean like.. it takes a lot of strength and courage. It can be slang for meaning it takes a lot of positive character attributes when someone says "it took a lot of heart"

protected by MetaEd May 4 '18 at 14:52

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