In English one uses the word "heart" in a variety of ways to express deep emotion, as in "She will always be in our hearts". Is there a corresponding "emotional organ" in Latin? How should I go about translating heart-related phrases into Latin in general?

There is of course cor, but I'm not sure if it's really used the way "heart" is. I am not interested in the actual physical organ that pumps blood but the emotions attached to it in English. My instinct suggests that pectus might be more suitable. For example, "from the bottom of our hearts" could well be pectore ab imo. But is pectus a good general substitute or should I be using cor as well?

There are certainly other options too, like iecur. Or perhaps some non-organs should be considered as viable alternatives for the same role, as animus.

I prefer classical Latin here, but insight from any era is welcome.

  • Definitely in the Vulgate it's cor. Can't elaborate now
    – Rafael
    Commented Sep 1, 2019 at 20:32
  • Dear Joonas, you quoted this in a previous answer "105: Interea tacitae serpunt in viscera flammae Meanwhile silent flames creep inside." (Viscera 'guts'.) Respectfully,
    – Hugh
    Commented Sep 1, 2019 at 22:38
  • 2
    iecur should be considered too.
    – Hugh
    Commented Sep 1, 2019 at 22:41
  • For some related discussion see answers.yahoo.com/question/…
    – Mitomino
    Commented Sep 1, 2019 at 22:56
  • 1
    From the Carmina Burana, the poem that starts with "Omnia sol temperat": Ama me fideliter / Fidem meam nota / de corde totaliter / et ex mente tota Commented Sep 2, 2019 at 9:00

1 Answer 1


Smith & Hall give a fairly clear and thorough explanation in 'A Copious and Critical English-Latin Dictionary', under the headword 'Heart' (page 307), section III, which begins as follows :

The Heart as the seat of the emotions:
1. pectus, -oris, n. : to love one's friend with the whole h., amicum toto p. [ut dicitur] amare, Cic. Leg. I, 18, 49 : Virg. : it is the h. that makes eloquent, p. est quod disertos facit, Quint. 10, 7, 15 : a h. to friendship true,, fidae p. amicitiae, Mart. 9, 14.

animus is also put forward as 'the soul, especially as the emotional part'.

Use of the word cor is considered infrequent in the sense that you are looking for, although corda is used for 'the wits', and the authors also claim that 'cordi esse' denotes simply that a thing is agreeable to one's wishes.

On the basis of the whole article, it seems that the usages of both cor and pectus shade into each other in much the same way as in English idiom , where we can take things to heart, hold emotions in our breasts — or secrets, as the Pope is said to hold the names of chosen cardinals, — have heart-felt conversations and so on; but in cases of doubt, pectus looks to be the best bet for what you are wanting.

[I don't use Lewis & Short very often, but I should think, because it was based on Smith, that it is in agreement, with a possibly larger number of examples.]

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