phrases, sayings, idioms and expressions at

Phrases, Sayings and Idioms Home > Discussion Forum

Re: Cockles

Posted by ESC on September 07, 2001

In Reply to: Correction; derivation posted by R. Berg on September 07, 2001

: : : : Anybody know where this phrase originated and what it means?
: : : : "warms the cockles of my heart"

: : : Meaning: Causes a pleasant feeling of a sentimental kind, is comforting, is reassuring.
: : : Origin: Not clear. The shell of the cockle, a mussel, is somewhat heart-shaped, but that may not have produced this phrase.
: : : Entry from Webster's Second Unabridged, 1934: "Cockles of the heart: A phrase (in which 'cockles' is of uncertain meaning) denoting the depths of the heart; as, to 'delight, rejoice, cheer, warm,' etc., 'the cockles of one's heart.'"

: : Maybe cockles is a medical term.

: : The heart is composed of various parts that work in unison to pump blood throughout the body.

: : One of the parts of the heart is called a ventricle. I dont remember if the ventricle pumps in or sends blood out but it makes no difference in this discussion.

: : Anyway, the Latin term for the heart's ventricles is "cochleae cordis".

: : Could "cockle" be a corruption of "cochleae cordis"?

: Correction: I mistakenly said "mussel" above. I meant to say "mollusk." "Cockle" formerly applied vaguely to various bivalves but is now more specific.
: More on derivation: It's unsettled. Oxford Engl. Dict. says "For derivation cf. quot. 1669. Others have sought its origin in L. 'corculum' dim. of 'cor' heart. (Latham conjectured 'the most probable explanation lies in the likeness of a heart to a cockleshell; the base of the former being compared to the hinge of the latter; in the zoological name for the cockle being Cardium, from the Greek [word for] heart'."
: This is the "quot. 1669": R. Lower, "Tract. de Corde," . . . Fibrae quidem spirali suo amb tu h licem sive cochleam satis apte referunt.
: "Tu h" doesn't look right; individual letters in my OED may have failed to print.

TO WARM THE COCKLES OF ONE'S HEART - ".it is astonishing that anatomists of the seventeenth century were already likening the human heart to the shape and valves of the mollusk, common on European shores, and the cockle. That is to say, they saw sufficient resemblance between the two valves of the mollusk and the two ventricles of the heart to refer to the latter as the cockles. Thus, because the heart was long supposed to be the seat of the affections, men spoke of delighting, of rejoicing, of pleasing, and, more recently, of warming the cockles of one's heart." From "2107 Curious Word Origins, Sayings & Expressions from White Elephants to a Song and Dance" by Charles Earle Funk (Galahad Book, New York, 1993).

On the other hand.
"Cockles of the heart have nothing to do with the cockles and mussels Sweet Molly Malone used to sell.the word comes from the Latin phrase 'cochleae cordis,' meaning 'ventricles of the heart,' while the shellfish 'cockle' comes from the Latin 'conchylium,' meaning 'conch shell.'" From "Morris Dictionary of Word and Phrase Origins" by William and Mary Morris (HarperCollins, New York, 1977, 1988).