For example, decapitate means to cut off someone's head.

Is there a word that means to rip out someone's heart or destroy a heart?

  • 3
    COMMENTERS: Please provide answers in answers, not in comments.
    – tchrist
    Oct 18, 2016 at 2:14
  • 2
    Not "discard," though.
    – Kris
    Oct 18, 2016 at 7:24
  • 5
    It's not clear to me if you're looking for a technical term or a colorful/poetic term. Are we talking Five Point Palm Exploding Heart technique a la Kill Bill Vol.2, or are we talking about a term that would be used in an autopsy to describe the outcome?
    – barbecue
    Oct 18, 2016 at 13:38
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    "Indy! Cover your heart!" shouted Short Round as the bad guy attempted an unscheduled manual cardiectomy.
    – Hellion
    Oct 18, 2016 at 16:01
  • Cut it out with a spoon?
    – Makyen
    Oct 18, 2016 at 21:37

5 Answers 5


Perhaps there is no really appropriate single word commonly accepted for what you seek, and you should simply use the phrases 'heart removal' or 'heart extraction', which are the terms used on Wikipedia's page on human sacrifice in Maya culture. However, there are terms used in medicine that may be of interest to you.

Mosby's Medical Dictionary lists 'cardiectomy' to mean 'removal of the heart' or 'removal of the cardiac portion of the stomach'. The Miller-Keane Encyclopedia and Dictionary of Medicine, Nursing, and Allied Health lists 'cardiocentesis' as 'surgical puncture or incision of the heart'.

  • Thanks. I'm checking this cardiectomy as that's what sounds the best to me. But the other answers could be good too, it feels subjective.
    – Harry
    Oct 18, 2016 at 3:53

Head : Behead :: Heart : Beheart

There exists a simple English word which stands in the same relation to the heart as behead to the head, and this word is of course beheart.

It uses the privative be- prefix to mean that one is deprived of one’s heart. We also find this prefix used that way in such verbs as belimb and bereave.

Nathaneel Whiting used it in a way that leaves no question as to its meaning. He is explaining the Bible verse 4:9 from the Song of Solomon (also known as Canticle of Canticles).

Cant. 4.9. Thou hast ravished my heart, my sister, my spouse — thou hast behearted me, taken away my heart, as he that hath his head taken away, is said to be beheaded.

The verse he is explaining set in italics (his, not mine) and his explanation of said verse in roman (again his, not mine). That particular text can be found on page 162 of Whiting’s Old Jacobs altar newly repaired, or, The saints triangle of dangers, deliverances and duties, personal and national, practically improved in many particulars, seasonable and experimental : being the answer of his own heart to God for eminent preservations, humbly recommended by way of teaching unto all... published in 1664, as you might have surmised by now. :)

Other writers point out that “behearted” there is a literal translation from the Hebrew. There are many such observances, of which one is from Thomas Brooks on page 359 of his A cabinet of choice jewels, or, A box of precious ointment, etc, published in 1762:

‘Thou hast ravished my heart,’ (or thou hast behearted me, as the Hebrew runs) ‘my sister, my spouse;

Wiktionary gives a definition for this word as meaning to enamour or to ravish citing Thomas Brooks as reprinted in 1866, plus another citation by a different author two years later.

  • 13
    Hope not to be befriended anytime soon ;-) Oct 18, 2016 at 15:46
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    @AbraCadaver that would almost be as bad as getting disarmed and de-feeted! Oct 18, 2016 at 19:07
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    @MasonWheeler For both of those there's the word belimbed. I think it was the subject of a previous EL&U question. Oct 19, 2016 at 6:24

The word "decardiate" has been used at least once before, presumably by analogy* to "decapitate."

This word apparently occurs in Conan of the Isles (1968), by L. Sprague de Camp and Lin Carter.

It's mentioned in the following review by Ryan Harvey, who doesn't think much of the word:

In places, their word choice falls flat or else strains too hard to grasp an obscure term. I have never seen anyone use the word “decardiate”—to remove the heart—in a work of fiction before, and I doubt I will see it again.

*I think the analogy is not entirely legitimate, however, because capit- comes from the Latin word for "head," caput/capitis, while cardi- comes from the Greek word for heart–the Latin word for heart is cor, cordis. Cor is the nominative and accusative form: derived words are typically built on the stem cord-, which occurs in the English words accord, concord, discord, record, cordate, obcordate. So theoretically the "heart" equivalent to decapitate would be "decordate" but all the results for this on Google are misspellings of the word "decorate".

There are actually some interesting Greek verbs derived from the noun καρδία that seem to have an appropriate meaning, such as καρδιουλκέω kardioulkéō "draw the heart of the victim at a sacrifice" (also apparently a synonym καρδιουργέω kardiourgéō) and ἐκκαρδιόω ekkardióō "cut out the heart", but unfortunately there is no generally established way of adapting Greek verbs into English ones.

  • 1
    If you really must go for Latin, there’s always excoriate, except for that one originally deriving from corium/corii for skin not cor/cordis for heart. But honestly, who but thee and me would know the difference these days? :)
    – tchrist
    Oct 18, 2016 at 2:10
  • 1
    @tchrist but that's already a standard English word with a well-known, non-heart-removing meaning....
    – Hellion
    Oct 18, 2016 at 15:59
  • @Hellion I do realize that. I mentioned it only because for aeons I myself incorrectly assumed it derived from cor, heart not from corium, skin. The extra ‑i‑ in excoriate should have sufficed to enclue me but alas it took me decades to notice this.
    – tchrist
    Oct 18, 2016 at 16:36
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    "The word is half Latin and half Greek--nothing good can come of it!" Oct 18, 2016 at 18:00
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    (I'm not sure if the analogy is completely legitimate, however, because "capit-" comes from the Latin word for "head," caput/capitis, while "cardi-" comes from the Greek word for heart–the Latin word for heart is cor, cordis.) Yeah, but using "de-cor-ate" to refer to removing someone's heart is going to cause more confusion than it's worth. :) Oct 18, 2016 at 19:57

From Aztec Sacrifice. Post-Conquest Nahua Painting, c. 1560...

The Aztecs carved the heart out of an alive human war captive, dedicated his heart's blood to the sun, and ate his body in order to honor their gods and to preserve the world...

(Sorry about the CAPS - they're in the original)

Obviously we don't often need such a term (and no - it's not in the full OED), but the above strikes me as as both easily understood1 and unremarkable (so no need for "scare quotes").

1 Most native speakers will be familiar with cardi- (relating to the heart) from words like cardiac arrest, cardiovascular disease, cardiogram. And the relevant senses of prefix ex- (away from) and suffix -ate (used to create a verb form) are reasonably common, so given even minimal context, this "neologism" should be reasonably transparent even on first encounter.

  • This is the correct answer. We want it to be based on Greek rather than Latin so we can use "cardi-" because that's better recognised, so it's excardiate.
    – Ben
    Jul 3, 2019 at 7:42
  • May I suggest adding some etymology comparing excardiate to cardiectomy?
    – Ben
    Jul 3, 2019 at 7:45
  • @Ben: Is my edit the kind of thing you had in mind? I would just say this is ELU, not ELL. Jul 3, 2019 at 15:12
  • 1
    Yes, wonderful :-) I would upvote you had I not already done so!
    – Ben
    Jul 5, 2019 at 8:54


Not that I would vouch for it's common usage but a 1985 British Tabletop Roleplaying game called Dragon Warriors featured a Sorcerer spell called Dishearten. Whilst the usual usage of the word is to demoralize, the meaning here was more literal, if the dice roll succeeded, the enemy's heart exploded within their chest (if it failed, they received minor damage as if from a painful kick to the chest).

As a verb meaning to remove a person's heart, Dishearten has the benefit of being well formed within English grammar, albeit with an unorthodox usage. The usual sense being an antonym to such expressions as take heart or be glad hearted.

  • I would use this word normally, it's certainly in common usage. I'm disheartened you think it's not! Oct 18, 2016 at 16:45
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    That sounds more like a pun than normal usage.
    – r256
    Oct 18, 2016 at 19:38
  • @BladorthinTheGrey: I think b.p.'s just saying that the literal meaning is not common usage.
    – herisson
    Oct 18, 2016 at 20:01
  • @r256 I agree... though depending on tone, this isn't necessarily a bad thing...
    – Devsman
    Oct 18, 2016 at 20:02
  • @r256: As suməlic says, the literal meaning isn't standard though I feel it is well-formed within English structural rules. You are right that it is in fact a pun but unlike most puns, by virtual of its construction, the pun has a correct and intended meaning if taken literally, which is undeniably an unorthodox usage.
    – bp.
    Oct 20, 2016 at 1:08

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