Apparently, the heart (being the organ responsible for powering the circulation of blood around the body) is an extremely romantic thing. Hence, "hearts" are equated with positive emotions, such as love, kindness, and compassion. According to this logic, someone that lacks ability to sufficiently feel such emotions is "heartless," and someone that has recently experienced a romantic tragedy is "heart-broken."
When a Heart Symbol is used for this, it's traditionally pronounced "love," as in "I love New York" for "I ♥ NY," though recent convention has been to actually pronounce the symbol as "heart" - for example, the film I Heart Huckabees. This is turn has led to the Internet meme of typing "I less-than-three X," in reference to the mathematical meaning of "<3".
In Animation and Graphic Novels, a cloud of hearts drawn floating near a character's head sometimes indicates a character falling in love and/or lust. Eyes popping out in the shape of hearts, oversized heartbeats, and the like are all some of The Oldest Ones in the Book.
The history of the trope can be read about in the Real Life section.
It's possibly a Discredited Trope, as subversions, deconstructions and parodies seem more common than playing it straight these days.
- The commercial slogan for UPS: "WE ♥ LOGISTICS."
- Heart symbols emanating from Kitsuburami's Wingding Eyes in episode 5 of FLCL. This may be due to what she is looking at◊ (reflected in Canti's screen). Despite what it looks like, it's a giant hand in a trench coat. Really.
- Every other line during the steamy portions of Hentai manga will end with one (or more) of these.
- Hachiko in NANA has them floating out of her whenever she gets a new love interest (she goes through a lot).
- In Persona 4: The Animation when Naoto tells the group she was scared, Kanji gets these floating around him.
- Lucia from Mermaid Melody Pichi Pichi Pitch uses them as an attack after she finishes a song in the anime.
- In Naruto, when Rock Lee meets Sakura for the first time, he blows a physical heart symbol at her. She even manages to dodge it and it splats sadly on the pillar behind her.
- In fanart, the kanji symbol on Gaara's forehead (which means "love") is often replaced by a ♥.
- Ah! My Goddess played with it. Hild blows a ♠ kiss at Keiichi. Belldandy counters it with a ♥ kiss, sending the two symbols ricocheting all over the room until they're caught by their mutual owners. Good thing she did, since ♠ kisses are apparently destructive.
- Naturally, in a show starring a self-proclaimed warrior of love and justice, Sailor Moon has a lot of them. Even as weapons.
- Copiously used in a completely unstraight way by Subaru when she reunites with Teana◊ in StrikerS Sound Stage X.
- In Sayonara, Zetsubou-Sensei Itoshiki is once given a chocolate heart as present, but it's not very well-made and looks ugly, so the perfectionist Chiri gives him an anatomically correct chocolate heart instead, freaking everybody out.
- In Durarara!!, the smoke from Celty's neck periodically formed a heart◊ while Shinra defended her and their recently upgraded relationship from his father's criticisms.
- Grell gets these when flirting over Sebastian in Black Butler. There's also episode 15 when Aleister does it while thinking of Ciel Disguised in Drag.
- MAD's early parody "Starchie" got facetious with them:
"Don't be silly, Bottleneck!... Just because you see those hearts floating around her head it doesn't mean she's got a crush on me!... In cartoon language, those hearts could mean platonic friendship!"
- Another parodied the "I ♥ NY" bumper sticker with a sticker responding: "So did I until someone ♣'d me and stole my ♦s".
- Parodied in Zits. Jeromy's parents are shown dropping him off at school, with a bumper sticker reading "We ♥ Our Son" on their car. Jeromy, meanwhile, has a sticker on his bag that reads "I [Stomach] My Parents."
- A Godzilla-related The Far Side comic has "I 8 NY".
- Another Far Side comic features a surgeon in love. But, being a surgeon, instead of a heart symbol it is represented by an anatomically correct heart.
- In a Doonesbury strip, Mr. Butts, the spokescigarette for the tobacco lobby, has little hearts appear around him as he deceitfully claims he loves children. A fellow lobbyist calls this "the heart thingy."
- The title character of Liō once applied a defibrillator to one of these after being turned down for a date.
- In Sherman's Lagoon, when Hawthorne hermit crab arranged a meeting between Sherman's shark human enemy, Captain Quigly and another woman. Sherman thinks it's working because he can see the "cartoony love hearts". Hawthorne corrects him by telling him that they're flies.
- For a while, the Stepford Cuckoos from X-Men were unable to feel emotions because their hearts were made of diamond. That's not a metaphor, it was literally the case.
- Empowered: When Clorofoamaster uses clorofoaming Emp as something like love, with Heart Symbols at the edges of his speech bubbles in Volume 3: Page 64.
- Who Framed Roger Rabbit: While watching Eddie and his girlfriend, Dolores, make up, Roger not only has heart pupils, he also forms a heart-shape with his ears.
- In Badly Drawn Roy, the heart-pounding-out-of-the-chest variation occurs when Roy first sees Ruth, along with Wingding Eyes. She found it to be very sweet.
- In Interstella5555, Daft Punk have a brief cameo, losing to the main characters in a music contest. One of the two members has LEDs on his helmet forming a broken heart symbol.
- I Heart Huckabees. The director insists it's pronounced, "I Heart Huckabees."
- In Inspector Gadget, Gadget's hat incorporates a scrolling marquee that normally displays such things as Miranda Rights. Heart symbols go sliding across it during an intimate moment.
- In The Mask, the living-cartoon title character has his heart-symbol pounding out of his chest when watching Cameron Diaz's character sing at a nightclub.
- Apparently, a heart that was two sizes too small was responsible for The Grinch's lack of fondness for Christmas. The trope is played straight in the most literal sense possible.
- The main plot point in The Wizard's Hairy Heart, a short tale and Book Within a Book in the Harry Potter universe: A twisted wizard seeks to remove all emotion from himself in order to become stronger, and so uses dark magic to physically extract his heart and store it in a container. It works better than he ever intended.
- As illustrated by Paul Kidby, Twoflower's Agatean Tourist gear in the first two novels includes a hat proclaiming "I ♥ A-M".
- In Mrs Bradshaw's Guide to the Ankh-Morpork and Sto Plains Hygienic Railway, a sticker available from the town of Big Cabbage proclaims "I <cabbage symbol> Big Cabbage".
- The Vita Nuova poem "Amore e l cor gentil" is all about how love and an open heart can only exist together, as judged by the wise man, legislated by Nature, and executed by Lord Love. For a heart to exist, Love must at least be hibernating within it so that it is ready to act when the heart encounters beauty.
- On the lam in his bathrobe, Hurley buys an "I ♥ Shih-Tzus" shirt in the Lost episode "The Lie". The cashier is puzzled. "I like shih-tzus," Hurley explains. "It looks like you heart them," the cashier answers.
- Inversion: when Moby was the musical guest on Saturday Night Live in 2002, he was embroiled in a feud with Eminem. He appeared in a sketch and wore a T-shirt that read "I heart eminem" given to him by a fan.
- Averted (or possibly subverted) on The Wire with the gangster "No-Heart" Anthony: he got his nickname not from a reputation for cruelty, but because he once tried to escape arrest by shooting himself in the chest.
- Lampshaded on Red Dwarf with the song Tongue-Tied.
When I saw you for the first time (first time)My knees began to quiver (quiver)And I got a funny feeling (feeling)In my kidneys and my liver (digestive system baby)My hands they started shaking (shaking)My heart began a-thumping (boom boom boom)My breakfast left my body (huey huey huey)
- In the Pushing Daisies episode Corpsicle, a boy who was waiting on a heart transplant (because he initially had no heart) was rather mean. A played straight example.
- Buffy the Vampire Slayer:
Buffy: That's beautiful...(she opens her eyes) Or, taken literally, incredibly gross.Angel: I was just thinking that.
- Angel talks about this at length at one point. Buffy embraces him, and they have this exchange:
- In a scene laden with Les Yay subtext, Faith entices Buffy out of a chemistry test for some vampire slaying by breathing on the window, then drawing a love heart with a stake through it.
- In a Valentine's Day Episode, Xander gives Cordelia a heart-shaped locket. Not to be outdone, Angelus gives fellow vampire Drusilla an actual heart that he found 'in a quaint little shopgirl".
- In Power Rangers Ninja Storm, the Big Bad's TV show in one episode (whoever watches gets brainwashed) was a sitcom called "I Love Lothor," with a heart for the logo... as in the actual, not-very-romantic-looking organ.
- In the Supernatural episode "Hunteri Heroici", taking the trope into the realm of Bloody Hilarious Body Horror, a Reality Warper is causing Cartoon Physics to take hold in the real world. The first sign of this is a man who goes to meet his mistressnote and finds his valentine-shaped heart beating so aggressively that it explodes out of his chest, killing him.
- On "The Big Bang Theory," Sheldon says the commonly used heart shape is actually modeled on the buttocks, prompting Penny to remark quizzically that she spent junior high drawing butts on her notebooks.
- Hannibal. Hannibal creates an anatomically-correct origami heart out of a human corpse and leaves it for Will to find.
Will: He left us...his broken heart.
- Altered Carbon. In "Force of Evil", Kovacs is being tortured in Virtual Reality Interrogation, but thanks to his Envoy training is able to take control of the system. In order to stop his heart in the real world so the Torture Technicians will be forced to revive him to full consciousness, he tears out his heart and offers it to a hallucination of his deceased lover Quellcrist Falconer, saying his heart has always belonged to her.
- Countless Boy Band songs like "I'll Never Break Your Heart," "Quit Playing Games With My Heart" and "Deep In My Heart."
- Parodied and deconstructed in Tom Lehrer's "The Masochism Tango", on the album An Evening Wasted with Tom Lehrer. "My heart is in my hand... yeeech!" (hence acknowledging that the heart is a rather sticky and ugly thing, hence isn't the best symbol for romantic love).
- Most Silly Love Songs mention the heart in their lyrics.
- "U Stink But I ♥ U", an Anti-Love Song by Mucky Pup which was originally credited to Billy And The Boingers, from Billy And The Boingers: Bootleg.
- The song "Hey Soul Sister" by Train, where the singer is in love with a woman.
I'm so obsessed, my heart is bound to beat right out my untrimmed chest
- "I ❤ Metal Buildings" in the 2018 soundtrack album of True Stories.
- Older translations of The Bible use not only the heart, but the kidneys as a metaphor for centers of human thought and emotion. If you're not used to it, it can feel mildly sacrilegious to read passages where the original word for "affection" (NIV) is "bowels" (KJV).
- A Christian comedian Mark Lowry once commented on this, resulting in "Oh, baby, you MOOOVE me! You move my bowels!" He then proceeds to sing exerpts from several songs, replacing "heart" with "bowels."
- This occurs in many actual old hymns as well, resulting in Have a Gay Old Time. A particularly glaring offender remarks of God, "To me, to all, Thy bowels move."
- Used as a visual gag in Zits. Jeromy's parents have a bumper sticker reading "We [Heart] Our Son," while a dour Jeromy has a sticker on his bag reading "I [Stomach] My Parents."
- Played with in Foxtrot; Jason makes heart-shaped placemats for his parents' Valentines Day dinner, but (being the person he is) makes them anatomically correct.
"The left ventricles are a little off..."
- Parodied by Colt Cabana. He has a T-shirt that has a Star of David in between the words "I" and "Colt." CM Punk has even been photographed wearing it.
- For Madison Eagles' match with Daizee Haze at CHIKARA Chaos in the Sea of Lost Souls, she wore a belt that on the back read "I ♥ Me."
- Shawn Michaels usually has one on his gear with a crack down the middle, because he's the heartbreak kid.
- Danny Demanto typically has these adorning his tights. It goes with his heartless perfection moonsault you see.
- Daizee Haze, sometimes has these patterned into her gear, because she's a hippie. Oh, and because if you don't show her love she'll heart punch you.
- 2015 LLF rookie of the year Baby Love has a mask two heart symbol shaped lenses.
- In "Follow Your Heart" from Urinetown, the entire song has to do about following your heart more or less metaphorically, but one of Bobby's verses walks the line between romance and squick.
Bobby: Someday I'll meet someoneWhose heart joines with mineAortas and arteries all intertwinedThey'll beat so much strongerThan they could apartEight chambers of muscle to hustleThe love in our heart
- The duet "My Heart" in P.D.Q. Bach's Oedipus Tex uses a series of increasingly awful animal metaphors for the heart.
- Typing "love" into Scribblenauts makes a realistic human heart appear. Said heart does nothing.
- Kingdom Hearts: the "Heartless" are composed of the darker and more instinctual emotions, and the "Nobodies" are almost Straw Vulcan-type beings with only logic and no feelings. A played-straight example, since the heart is still equated with the "warm and fuzzy" emotions.
- The animation for the infatuation status and the Attract move in the Pokémon games is a small floating pink heart.
- The love-symbolizing Pokemon Luvdisc is basically a living Heart Symbol with a face.
- Kingdom of Loathing offers (real-world, not in-game) bumper stickers with "I ♣ Seals" on them, because of the Seal Clubber class.
- When characters in The Sims fall in love, they emit hearts to indicate this.
- The Legend of Zelda:
- In The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess, the reunion of a yeti couple after a quick bout of possession results in a huge mass of hearts shooting out of their loving embrace. Since this is a Zelda game, the hearts are actually the series' long-standing recovery items, plus a health-boosting Heart Container.
- Averted in Katawa Shoujo; the game logo has a bandaged heart, but while it is a Dating Sim with five disabled love interests, it also represents the protagonist's heart condition.
- Disgaea uses them for the max level that Dark Assembly members can like you... and just to show how wicked the Netherworld is.
Great for chopping heads off♥— "Headhunter" axe description
- In Nuts & Milk, Yogurt and Milk would hold a heart symbol between them at the end of every level. In the Bonus Stages, the heart would get bigger and a heart-shaped field of flowers would appear.
- In Cave Story, near the end of the game, one of the Mimigas mentions the great hero Arthur and all of them suddenly have hearts above their heads. The hearts can also be grabbed for HP recovery.
- Averted in Touhou, where Hecatia's "Welcome ♥ Hell" T-shirt is supposed to read "Welcome to Hell".
- Parodied in this episode of Teen Girl Squad, a Show Within a Show of Homestar Runner. When So and So gets some floating heart symbols from feeling a crush, one of the hearts gets hit by an arrow and screams.
"Whattaya mean I'm less than B?"
- From Vamlumtimes Day!
- In There she is!!, Doki the rabbit's floating hearts, generated by her love for Nabi, are apparently quite physical and can bury people under them, mainly Nabi.
- Averted in this Dresden Codak strip; when one of her friends makes a reference to "matters of the heart," Kimiko points out that "[her] heart is nothing more than an engine forged from the remnants of a dead star."
- Played with and lampshaded in Digger: the hyena tribe view the liver, not the heart, as the most important organ and the source of a person's feelings.
Ed: If Mousie is ever starving, Mousie will know. Prey's liver is what hunter craves first. Kill prey, eat liver, get strong. Full of feelings. Life. Heart just muscle.
Digger: But you'd die without your heart!
Ed: Not be getting far without liver, either.
- This strip of Sluggy Freelance literally lampshaded a subversion of it.
- Bay got one in this strip of Sailor Sun. Slightly tweaked at first just because she noticed it, it was played with even more when she was able to physically grab it. Then, when Bay tried to shoo that embodied visual metaphor for her own crush out a window, it turned out to have feelings of its own.
- The Order of the Stick
- A single red heart for Elan and Haley's first kiss, in "Your Ship Has Come In".
- When Kazumi and Daigo share their wedding kiss in strip #501, they each get a Heart Symbol. Like everything else from Azure City, the hearts are blue.
- Normal pink hearts accompany Belkar's seduction of a female bard in #611.
- The Phil Foglio comic adaptation of the Myth Adventures books features signs saying "I ♥ NY"; "I ♣ Seals"; "I ♠ Cats" and "I ♦ ..." and the end of that sign is covered. Years later, Foglio was asked how the last sign ended, and replied "It was cleverly blocked for a reason."
- Hilariously subverted in this Zita the Spacegirl strip by Ben Hatke.
- Played with in this Friendly Hostility comic, where a character not only notices the heart but pops it, too. Nice metaphor.
- The Cyantian Chronicles: Seen in Campus Safari when Cilke first met Chrome. They were immediately dubbed "Floaty Love Hearts" by a fan of the comic.
- This strip of Dumnestor's Heroes.
- In Homestuck, Vriska gets ♥'s in all 8 of her pupils after watching Nicolas Cage in Con Air. And the black romance version, Karkat gets ♠'s in his eyes after falling in hate with John. The emoticon versions are used more often: <3 for redrom, <3< for blackrom.
- Karkat and Gamzee appear in a diamond after forming their Moirallegience. The symbol for Auspisticism is a club, but so far it's only figured in the various shipping diagrams.
- In Sinfest, they float about Fuschia.
- In Three Jaguars, they radiate from Marketer.
- At the end of the Transformers episode "The Girl Who Loved Powerglide", in a bit of Interspecies Romance Powerglide reveals an LED heart, showing he does indeed have compassion. This made it into a toy of him... twenty odd years after the episode aired.
- Deconstructed in The Marvelous Misadventures of Flapjack episode "Love Bugs". Flapjack meets a girl selling seashells and discovers that little hearts pop out of his head whenever he thinks of her. Peppermint Larry starts harvesting them and selling them to his customers as "sweethearts". Then it turns out that the hearts are actually heart-shaped parasites called "bloodgnats", which Flapjack got from the seashell the girl gave him.
- Beavis And Butthead radiate hearts in the presence of Cool Guy Todd.
- Danny Phantom:
- In the Valentine's Day episode of All Grown Up!, Phil complains that hearts aren't even really shaped like that.
- Played with in a Cow and Chicken episode, where the hearts that pop around the characters' heads are anatomically correct.
- Used constantly on The Fairly OddParents! whenever one character is swooning over another.
- Used in Jimmy Two-Shoes, when Jez is actually swooning over Lucius for once.
- In an episode of The Amazing Chan and the Chan Clan, Chu-Chu the dog has hearts coming out of his eyes for a magician's poodle assistant Fifi.
- Doug and◊ Patti.◊
- Played annoyingly straight in Captain Planet and the Planeteers, "heart" refers to warm and fuzzy feelings and is also a (rather lame or rather awesome) superpower.
- The Simpsons:
- Parodied on season 11 episode "Saddlesore Galactica": Moe meets a beautiful woman at a horse racing track, mutters "You're BEAUTIFUL," and his heart starts beating out of his chest like in the older, wackier Golden Age of Animation cartoons (particularly the Looney Tunes and MGM cartoons directed by Tex Avery). When he notices this, he immediately says "Excuse me, this is a serious heart condition, I gotta go!" Also counts as something of a PG-rated Something Else Also Rises.
- A Valentine's Day episode of The Simpsons also Deconstructed this by having the school cafeteria serve beef hearts for lunch on Valentine's Day. Needless to say, this did not make things more romantic.
- A Valentine's Day card made by Jimmy to Cindy in The Adventures of Jimmy Neutron: Boy Genius included a holographic realistic heart.
- Spongebob Squarepants:
- In "F.U.N.", when Spongebob is chasing Plankton, who had just run off with a Krabby Patty, Spongebob chases after Plankton who is using a propeller to fly away. Spongebob takes a policeman's baton and spins it around, flying into the air. The cop's reaction is to swoon over Spongebob, complete with heart bubbles.
- Lampshaded when Spongebob gives Squidward a shirt with "I ♥ U" woven into it, Squids reads it as "I Heart You."
- Used as a visual gag in The Critic. On an especially lonely Valentines Day, Jay notices a newspaper with the headline "New York to New York: I ♥ You!" with a smaller blurb underneath reading "Mayor Has ♥ Attack."
- Valentine's Day typically plays this trope straight—thankfully, for those who might be a little more cynical when it comes to love/romance/Valentine's Day (or at least just sticklers for scientific/anatomy-accuracy), there are chocolatiers out there that make and sell anatomically-correct chocolate hearts (e.g. here).
- ThinkGeek.com offers heart themed items of geeky romance, including a pair of T-shirts with a bar of Zelda-esque hearts that light up when their wearers are near, and an anatomically correct gummy heart. It also features items with the "less than three" (<3) netspeak variant.
- The ancient Egyptians took this trope one step further: they believed the heart was not only the center of the soul, and thus the "seat of emotions and will", but also the center of the nervous system.
- The heart has long been thought of as the seat of the emotions, while the brain was regarded as little more than "head stuffing". This thinking goes back to the ancient Egyptians, who preserved the heart of the dead but threw out the brain. It wasn't until the 6th century BCE that the idea of the brain as seat of intelligence was even forwarded, and Aristotle believed that the brain served to cool the blood (humans being superior to animals because, since our blood-coolers were larger, we were less hot-bloodedly irrational). Head wounds bleed profusely, so that being a good way to kill people was no contradiction.
- The heart being the seat of the emotions is cultural. Some cultures use the kidneys, some the liver, and, yes, some use the bowels. See also the Biblical examples in Literature above.
- The heart does influence the nervous system more than the brain in formative years, it can take as long as seven years for a truly rational (and calorie hogging) brain to develop while the heart takes much less time to get there. Testable proof that the brain was the main thought center caused many people to disregard the heart's influence on behavior for centuries, showing fields in science often regress a little before truly moving forward as we now know all emotions have measurable effects on the heart's electrical field. More than a blood pump that produces a lot of electricity, the heart is also a hormonal gland that produces its own neurotransmitters, dopamine, epinephrin, norepinephrin, the catechlomines.
- Since heart transplants became viable, some recipients have reported changes in their personalities, tastes and desires that seem to mirror the donor's lifestyle. Comparing reported changes to the lives and preferences of the heart donors reveals no correlation.
- Starting with the ancient Greeks, the liver was claimed to control human passion. Later, medieval Europeans developed the idea that "humor," — blood, phlegm, black bile, and yellow bile — controlled health and temperament, and that a lack of yellow bile (anger, courage, spirit) would make the liver pale as a side effect. This is the origin of the insult "Lily Livered" since a pale or white liver was a weak one thus without emotion or courage. Humors are the justification behind blood-letting, as well.
- The heart being responsible for delivery of oxygen to the body's active tissues, disorders that impair its efficiency can have an indirect, but genuine effect on a person's moods, making them feel more tired and sluggish. Not a state of mind normally associated with intense romantic desire.
- A possible explanation for this may be the increase in heartbeat when in the presence of someone you have a crush on, or maybe the fact that, for a good part of history, the heart was known as the "main life organ". ❤
- The idea that the heart is the seat of emotions is often attributed to the Greek philosopher Empedocles, though he may not have been the first to suggest it.
- Note that not all cultures equated love with the heart. The people of Elizabethan England, for instance, believed that the passions were seated in the liver, and the residents of Ancient Israel thought the bowels held such emotions (hence the term, a "gut feeling").
- Parodied with Gallagher's "I ♣ My Wife."
- And real-life bumper sticker "I ♠ My Pets."
- And T-shirts saying "I ♣ Seals".
- And "I (Godzilla) Tokyo."
- And (back when he was alive) Apple fanboys and fangirls would carry signs with "I (Apple symbol) Steve Jobs" to Mac World keynote addresses.
- There's a particularly offensive shirt online that says "I [Plane] NY".
- The writer of Wondermark created one that says "I [Squiggle/Knot] Unparsable Symbols".
- The seed of the extinct silphium is believed by some to be the origin of the symbol, namely due to its contraceptive properties.
- The Discworld Emporium offers a Fun T-Shirt which declares "[Eyeball] [realistic heart] Igorth".
- It remains to clear up why the heart ♥ does not look especially heart-shaped. As always, watchers of the German Mouse know it all. <tl;dr> version: The "heart" is a leaf. Long version.
- The company Locum attempted to incorporate the heart symbol into their logo, replacing the O in their name with the heart, and it caused a few laughs because it made their company name sound like they love...something else.