I have seen people use heart-rendering.

The concern was unwarranted, however, for the company commander ordered, "Ready! Aim! Fire!" and a dozen muskets split the crisp December air with a thunderous volley. In the hushed silence that followed, a lone Tiger broke ranks, ran up to one body, and gently held and caressed it. "It was heart-rendering," a correspondent wrote, "to see the poor brother's agony." Wheat, the only many in the division who was excused from attending the execution, broke down and cried in his tent at hearing the discharge of muskets. [The News-Star (Monroe, Louisiana), December 23, 2011, page 28]

Is there a usage like that? Is it used wrongly for heartrending?

  • 3
    Thank you for providing that link! It was very helpful. It made your question much more meaningful. (And gave a possible reason that "heart-rendering" wasn't merely due to a spelling mistake.) Commented Dec 31, 2011 at 5:15
  • That is definitely not the only or a rare example of the phrase. There are several in published literature. Context and author's intended meaning are the only things that can answer the question in individual cases.
    – Kris
    Commented Jan 20, 2014 at 7:02

7 Answers 7


Yes, if you are a butcher or soap maker and commonly boil offal.

Otherwise it's heartrending.

  • 4
    Is there a badge for wit? If so, you should get it. In its absence you get my vote. Commented Dec 31, 2011 at 11:04
  • haha! +1 for neatly encapsulating those obscure contexts where heart-rendering might occur! Commented Dec 31, 2011 at 14:38
  • Although as jay says - it might also be commonly used at Pixar
    – mgb
    Commented Dec 31, 2011 at 19:29
  • Perhaps we could also ask if the spelling may have been used in 1861 (when the correspondent in the quotation wrote it).
    – GEdgar
    Commented May 6, 2013 at 17:44

The correct modern usage is heart-rending. Rend means to tear. Heart-rending is similar to heart-breaking, an emotional reaction to a very sad event.

You referred to heart-rendering as it appears in an article, December 1861: A heart-rendering scene, written by Dr. Terry L. Jones, a professor of history at the University of Louisiana at Monroe. It is one of a series of articles about the U.S. Civil War. The only use of "heart-rendering" was a direct historical quote from a witness to the 1861 execution (which was then used for the title) in Dr. Jones' article:

"It was heart-rendering," a correspondent wrote, "to see the poor brother's agony."

To render in modern contexts would be:

  • In computer graphics, rendering an image
  • In cooking, to render fat, the action of rendering fat

EDIT: For example

It was a bad collision, rendering the auto useless.

  • 1
    .. And in the sense of "cause to be". "The fault rendered the car useless".
    – slim
    Commented Dec 31, 2011 at 5:13
  • Thanks @slim I just edited my answer to include your suggestion. Commented Dec 31, 2011 at 5:32

I strongly suspect it is just a mis-spelling of "heart-rending".

In computers, to "render" something is to draw it on a screen or printer, as in "rendering an image". So "heart-rendering" would, I guess, mean to draw a picture of a heart on the screen. :-)

In general, to "render" is to give or present something, like to "render a bill", meaning to give someone your bill for payment. It's barely possible that someone said "heart rendering" meaning "to give someone your heart", i.e. offer love or friendship. But I doubt it, unless they were making a play on words with "heart-rending". As I say, it's probably just a mistake.

  • Makes sense. That site where it was misused appeared to be a serious one and made me suspect such a usage.
    – nemoy
    Commented Dec 31, 2011 at 5:04
  • It is a serious site. I thought so too. I don't think heart-rendering makes sense in a modern context at all. But I don't think that author and the website deliberately made a spelling error. Twice. Particularly since everything else was correct in the article. It was an odd choice of title though. I'm not sure why there would be such implied emphasis on "heart-rendering". I mean, the article itself was really sad, serious. Commented Dec 31, 2011 at 21:43

You could use it. Whether it has ever actually been used is another question entirely.

The meaning of "to render" has been accurately described in the other answers. "To rend" means to rip in two, so "heartrending" is pretty much synonymous with "heartbreaking".

So the quote you gave is probably just a mistake on the correspondent's part (if I may be so bold as to say so), and he meant to say "heart-rending", that is, that it broke his heart to see such agony.


Kenneth Grahame used 'heart-rendering' in his children's classic, The Wind in the Willows (1908). In chapter 2, 'heart-rendering' is used to describe the crash of Toad's caravan in a sudden road accident.

Clearly, 'heart-rendering' was once considered perfectly correct; at the very least, I am willing to believe that Grahame and Charles Scribner II (his publisher) knew their business.

I would like to suggest a slight difference in meaning from the still-common 'heart-rending': while the latter would convey 'heart-breaking', the former might have meant something more sudden and shocking, as with our current 'heart-stopping'. But it would not do to assume that 'heart-rendering' is wrong-headed or incorrect; rather, it appears that that usage has merely become obsolete.

  • Here is a link to the relevant quotation from a 1908 edition of The Wind in the Willows which renders the word as "heartrending" (one word no hyphen): "It [the cart] wavered for an instant—then there was a heartrending crash—and the canary-coloured cart, their pride and their joy, lay on its side in the ditch, an irredeemable wreck." Subsequent editions ...
    – Sven Yargs
    Commented Jun 17 at 0:17
  • ... of the book from 1913 and 1920 hyphenate the word as heart-rending, although a 1915 edition sticks with heartrending. However, none of the four readable editions for the years 1908–1920 that a Google Books search returns uses heart-rendering (or heartrendering). Please recheck your source to see whether it is indeed an original copy of the 1908 edition (as opposed to an OCR copy) and whether it actually uses heart-rendering.
    – Sven Yargs
    Commented Jun 17 at 0:17

On Language Log, UPenn:

I'm not sure that the people who use heart-rendering are thinking of one of the relevant senses of render, such as "To surrender or relinquish; yield", or "To reduce, convert, or melt down (fat) by heating", as opposed to rend, "To tear or split apart or into pieces violently".

You don't find too many instances of a "mistake" in published literature, see nGram.

About 10,500 occurrences in GoogleBooks, including every possible use of the word combination.

However, I could find no instances on COCA that were not quotes verbatim.

Definitely, some authors use heart-rendering as an eggcorn, some in its possible literal sense (see also LL above, though), some as a mistaken expression in place of heart rending.

  • See also, my comment at OP.
    – Kris
    Commented Jan 20, 2014 at 7:03
  • You misinterpreted the results. The count of 10,500 is inaccurate. It is an over-estimate. Look at the GoogleBooks results for the interval 1935 to 1991, during which heart-rendering seems to spike, provided in nGram results page footer. There is no distinction made between heart, rendering and heart-rendering! The error is compounded due to the source, "the will of God from the heart, rendering service ... as to the Lord and not to men" Ephesians 6:5. Commented Jan 21, 2014 at 8:36
  • @FeralOink Surprising that you were unaware of this. What you point out is an inherent limitation of Google Search and applies uniformly to all Google Search, including Google Books & nGrams. Any serious user of Web Search, Books & nGrams always factors in this and similar other issues.
    – Kris
    Commented Jan 21, 2014 at 10:25
  • It's a good idea to be circumspect in down voting. Though I am myself an answerer on this page, I have up voted some and down voted other(s) after adequate research and satisfying myself of the same.
    – Kris
    Commented Jan 21, 2014 at 10:27
  • I didn't downvote you. You were downvoted at -1 before I arrived. Commented Jan 21, 2014 at 18:33

Until one gets used to associating a tragic horrible scene with the word 'heart-rending'one may be permitted to use the more sonically appropriate 'heart-rendering' until we are about to start a robot English language, which might be soon, say a twenty or hundred years.

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