In translating a text about a book and a person is describing how he likes it and the moral values in it.

He then says this line: “So it speaks to my heart.”

I figured the meaning for this phrase is:

speak to one’s heart: to touch one’s heart, to deeply affect one’s emotions

I was trying to find a fitting definition for this expression, but the only "definition" I found was on this site, quoting the Chamber's dictionary: http://www.finedictionary.com/Speak%20to%20the%20heart.html

The definition given is: to comfort, encourage

But this does not really fit my context. I also found another discussion for the exact phrase here: https://www.englishforums.com/English/SpeaksToMyHeart/kjhrc/post.htm

This is pretty good, and seems to be valid and also fits my context.

The only other definition I found for "speak to" is in the Shorter Oxford Dictionary: influence, affect, touch.

Based on this, again, I figured the meaning for this phrase is as follows:

speak to one’s heart: to touch one’s heart, to deeply affect one’s emotions

I would appreciate some advice/guidance on this from native speakers. Thank you.

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    Yes, what you said: "speak to one’s heart: to touch one’s heart, to deeply affect one’s emotions". The effect is directly or mainly on your emotions rather than your intellect.
    – Drew
    Jan 5, 2018 at 2:34
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    The inclusion of 'so' strongly suggests the 'resonates with my feelings on the subject' sense mentioned in the EnglishForums thread. I'd say that the more causative 'touch one’s heart: deeply affect one’s emotions: move' sense you mention is the most common today. The Chamber's definition, also found in Bible dictionaries of 100+ years ago, is archaic. // Good question, better researched than many. And exposing an inadequacy in modern dictionaries. Jan 5, 2018 at 4:40

2 Answers 2


The Chamber's dictionary was taking you in the right direction.

The phrase, "speaks to one’s heart," has a long history in the Western Christian experience and high currency in today's religious discourse. The idea of "speaking to the heart" appears in the Bible repeatedly. See for example God speaking in Ezekiel 3:10

"Son of man, take into your heart all My words which I will speak to you and listen closely."

Presently, there is an extremely popular song/hymn that moves across Protestant churches and takes the phrase as its title. Just a sample of the lyrics:

"Speak to my heart, Holy Spirit Message of love, love to encourage me"

Now compare that with a 18th century Bible commentary/concordance when defining the phrase:

"speak to one's heart, to comfort him, to say pleasing and affecting things to him."

That same definition runs verbatim through various other concordances and in the mid 19th century Noah Webster picked it up and (undoubtedly encouraged by Transcendentalism) put it in the current words of the hymn:

"To speak to one's heart, in Scripture, to speak kindly to ; to comfort; to encourage."

By now you my have noticed that the phrase "Speaks to one's heart" is not synonym with "to touch one’s heart," though they are closely related.

An exegesis of the biblical texts on this subject reveals the principal issue is the passing of information, but not any kind of information nor in any kind of language.

The verb "speaks" plays a crucial role. While "touching" is undefined, subjective and open to various interpretation, "speaking" is about connecting to the recipient with words that make sense either intuitively or by logic. The point is that whatever "speaks to one's heart" knows the language to convey the meaning and also knows (and this is as important) the information that the recipient needs to "hear."

Two important things:

1- The language (which includes the rapport and manners: treats you with respect and speaks your tongue).

2- The message (exactly what you need to hear [film "The Matrix]).

The result of "speaking to one's heart," however, is the same as "touching one's heart." The person is reestablished, energized, and reoriented (with all of its geographical implications).

In short, when something "speaks to your heart," it fills the frontal lobe of your brain with essential information and then reaches to your amygdala with tenderness.

  • some definitions are due: exegesis: explanation after thorough study; amygdala: roughly almond-shaped gray matter deep inside each hemisphere of the human brain, associated with the sense of smell (used as an allusion here, especially since the message reaches beyond the brain, to the human soul and consciousness). So from this, I assume that the definition I deduced was pretty close...
    – ib11
    Jan 11, 2018 at 6:07
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    @ib11 Excellent! You deciphered the meaning I assigned to the amygdala. The term exegesis is used widely in textual and theological studies, thus why I included here. Regarding your deduction: of course, you were "pretty close." I wanted to emphasize, however, that it is not simply a matter of "touchy feelings", but also of intellectual exercise, personal relationship and, as a result, emotional and spiritual satisfaction. Hope it makes sense. Thanks for posting the question. Jan 11, 2018 at 11:16
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    This seems like a bipartite stance. Some noted exegetists (Nee for instance) have adopted the tripartite stance (or at least used the bipartite model), that spirit, soul and body are all components of man (contrast intelligent animals, with just body and soul (mind, will, and emotions). 'Heart' seems, in your chosen verses, to correspond to spirit, with the Word affecting man (hopefully) more deeply than perhaps ephemerally cheering him up. Aug 15, 2019 at 15:41

Definition (v.) to be honest, sincere

Examples She doesn’t speak from the heart. Everything she says seems like a lie.

  • That's "from," not "to."
    – David K
    Jan 10, 2018 at 12:46
  • How does this answer the question? Jan 10, 2018 at 22:31

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