Here’s something heart-wrenching: most dictionaries do not accept the word heart-wrenching. The same dictionaries that have picked up google as a verb have yet to give credence to heart-wrenching.

Most people—ahem, like me—have used heart-wrenching as an adjective to describe something that causes severe emotional pain. The term blends heart + wrench (that is, to twist or pull violently).* Heart-wrenching most likely takes its cue from gut-wrenching.

What is found in all dictionaries is the term heartrending, defined as “causing anguish or deep distress” or “arousing deep sympathy” or something extremely moving.** The term was first used in 1594,*** a blend of heartrend (that is, to tear or split apart violently).

Interestingly, the archaic meaning of rend is to wrench.**** 

How about you? Do you use heart-wrenching? It might be time the dictionaries accept the word. After all, some of them already list the portmanteau chillax (blending chill and relax).***** So why not heart-wrenching?



* Dictionary.com

** American Heritage DictionaryLearner’s DictionaryOxford Advanced American Dictionary,

*** Merriam-Webster Dictionary

**** The New Oxford-American Dictionary

***** Merriam-Webster Dictionary, Oxford Advanced American Dictionary, The New Oxford-American Dictionary

Photo credit: Mobile Wallpapers


8 thoughts on “Heart-wrenching?

  1. ‘Heartrending’ is – and has always been – a legitimate word.
    ‘Heart-wrenching’, on the other hand, is what is commonly referred to as a corruption (I suspect of ‘gut-wrenching’, as you suggest, Janet).
    Personally, I prefer to model my language usage on correct, rather than bastardised forms.
    What is the point of education if you make up your own rules?

    • I’d like that too for myself, Mark. Alas, my old (and bad) habits die hard! :)

      English is a challenge for us Filipinos, even if our ears are accustomed to over 120 local languages. What was it that my teacher said? English is easy to learn but difficult to master.

  2. Ha ha, I had to comment. I was shocked as well to find something as common as heart wrenching not accepted by dictionaries. Do you know ANYONE who says heart-rending? Neither do I. Case closed. I will use it without fear. One day, Merriam Webster will catch up with the times or not – we’ve stopped listening to Merriam anyway.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s