In English, "heartbreak" is a well-attested and living metaphor, with phrases like "I'm going to break his heart", "my heart is broken", "he looks broken-hearted", "he's dealing with heartbreak", "he's a heartbreaker", and hundreds of others.

Is there a Latin equivalent to these? The obvious would be cor frangere or cor rumpere, but that feels overly literal.

(By the grace of Venus Obsequens, I'm asking about this for a work of fiction, not for real life.)


3 Answers 3


Tibullus/Lygdamus, writing after the loss of his love Neaera, laments:

... frangit fortia corda dolor

... pain breaks strong hearts

[Tibullus], Elegies, 3.2.6

Which confirms your own guess!

  • Er, not 'pain breaks strong hearts'? (cor is neuter.)
    – Tom Cotton
    Commented Mar 3, 2019 at 7:38
  • 1
    @Tom Cotton Ugh, you're right, corrected. Thank you.
    – Penelope
    Commented Mar 3, 2019 at 7:57

cor, cordis neuter substantive heart is also a well-attested basis for several metaphors in Latin. In Latin, however, the heart, and the praecordia, -ae, the midriff, is the seat of social harmony and memory as well as love and affection.


cordoleo, -ere be heartbroken.
misericordia, -ae f. I sympathy II appeals to pity.


concors, concordis adjective of the same mind.
discors discord

[missing in Classical Latin: accors, succor ]

THE MIND centre of mental activity

excors -dis adj senseless, without intelligence.
recordatio, -tionis
recordor, -ari to bring back to mind


I am not aware of a phrase corresponding to the English one(s) in frequency and tone, but here are some ideas:

  • There is an ante- and post-classical word cordolium, "sorrow of heart".

  • Ovid's Remedia Amoris is a poem about broken hearts, so I recommend reading it for inspiration in this direction. On a quick glance, I found these lines:

    15: At si quis male fert indignae regna puellae
    Any man who suffers from the rule of an unworthy girl

    42: quos suus ex omni parte fefellit amor
    you who have been completely betrayed by love

    54: nec servum vitii pectus habere sui
    and not to let the heart be a slave to one's own vice

    105: Interea tacitae serpunt in viscera flammae
    Meanwhile silent flames creep inside

    148: Adfluit incautis insidiosus Amor
    Love flows into the unexpecting

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