A woman holds a paper heart cut out.

Around Valentine’s Day hearts are everywhere, but do you know where the symbol originally came from? This Valentine’s Day, we talk with scholar Marilyn Yalom about her new book, “The Amorous Heart.” Yalom follows heart imagery throughout history, from the origins of its two-lobed shape to how it became a worldwide emblem of romantic longing, lust and loss.

A Heart Says ‘Love’ — But Why? 14 February,2018Michael Krasny

Marilyn Yalom, senior scholar, Stanford University's Clayman Institute for Gender Research; author, "The Amorous Heart: An Unconventional History of Love"

  • Vern

    The origin of the international heart shape is the shape of the seed of an ancient contraceptive named Silphium, which could not be cultivated and it’s thought to be extinct. Use of the contraceptive promoted copulatión activity in the human population of the countries around the Mediterranean.

  • geraldfnord

    Robert Anton Wilson claimed that the ‘heart’-and-arrow was obviously a sexual penetration image. It wasn’t obvious to me until I read that claim, but once I had, primed by an earlier ‘hearts don’t look like that’, it was—Eros (‘Cupid’ in Rome) was not the god of Philia or of Agapé.


    The heart as symbol of love goes back thousands of years to ancient Egypt where the heart was is where the human spirit resided. even lots of our western costumes including love and marriage had their origin in ancient Egypt, including wearing white dress at weddings as well having the wedding ring on that particular finger as the Egyptians measured it to be the shortest distance to the heart,,,,,,,,,Ancient Egypt Goddess of love is Hathor…………You can read beautiful ancient Egyptian love poems on line. one of which is on my Facebook page………..Happy Valentine Day

  • Robert Thomas

    While in Italy for the first time ten years ago, I saw works of art in two different collections that were double-lobed depictions of the human heart with pointy end at the bottom but rather startlingly, included also a severed aorta and other blood vessels. They were meant to represent the Sacred Bleeding Heart of Christ, I believe. These were 17th century, or earlier.

    Lorenzo de’ Medici used playing cards with red, pointy-end-down, two lobed heart-shaped pips in the 15th century That were called cuori (“hearts”). They’re at the Laurentian library.

  • marte48

    Happy Valentine’s Day to Michael Krazny – from a longtime admirer.

  • geraldfnord

    The burial of royal hearts away from the body is one reason so few English monarchs rose from the grave as vampires or vrodolaki.

  • geraldfnord

    ‘Big-hearted’ is a reflexion of a child-brain’s equation of size and quality.


Michael Krasny

Michael Krasny, PhD, has been in broadcast journalism since 1983. He was with ABC in both radio and television and migrated to public broadcasting in 1993. He has been Professor of English at San Francisco State University and also taught at Stanford, the University of San Francisco and the University of California, as well as in the Fulbright International Institutes. A veteran interviewer for the nationally broadcast City Arts and Lectures, he is the author of a number of books, including “Off Mike: A Memoir of Talk Radio and Literary Life” (Stanford University Press) “Spiritual Envy” (New World); “Sound Ideas” (with M.E. Sokolik/ McGraw-Hill); “Let There Be Laughter” (Harper-Collins) as well as the twenty-four lecture series in DVD, audio and book, “Short Story Masterpieces” (The Teaching Company). He has interviewed many of the world’s leading political, cultural, literary, science and technology figures, as well as major figures from the world of entertainment. He is the recipient of many awards and honors including the S.Y. Agnon Medal for Intellectual Achievement; The Eugene Block Award for Human Rights Journalism; the James Madison Freedom of Information Award; the Excellence in Journalism Award from the National Lesbian and Gay Journalists Association; Career Achievement Award from the Society of Professional Journalists and an award from the Radio and Television News Directors Association. He holds a B.A. (cum laude) and M.A. from Ohio University and a PhD from the University of Wisconsin.

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