Why Is The Heart Icon Shaped Like That?

Have you every wonder why the hearts look like that?


Emma Harris

The heart icon could come from early incorrect drawings of the anatomical heart or the silphium plant.

We all know the heart symbol. We also know that said heart icon ironically doesn’t exactly resemble an actual, anatomical heart in appearance. So why is it shaped like that? While historians aren’t quite sure, they have two main theories on how it’s odd shape came to be. 

One theory is that the shape actually originates from the shape of a silphium’s seedpod (history.com). The silphium was a plant grown by ancient Greeks and Romans for flavoring and medicinal purposes. These medicinal purposes included the very first instance of birth control, something the plant became famous for (so famous, in fact, that it would eventually die out due to a disproportionate consumption to growth rate). Thus, silphium became associated with sex and love, used to represent these things in many pieces of art. This association could draw the conclusion that the seedpod of this plant inspired the heart shape we see so often today.

The more likely and favorited theory by historians, however, backed up by scholars Pierre Vinken and Martin Kemp, suggest that the symbol’s roots don’t lie in a plant, but the incorrect theories and depictions of the human heart made by Aristotle. Aristotle first described the heart to have three chambers with a dent in the middle, and it was his model that artists and scientists of the Middle Ages were inspired by when trying to create medical depictions of their own. 

The human heart has been used for centuries as a metaphor and symbol for our ever changing emotions and love, but why we draw our hearts the way we do is murky. I guess in a way this is fitting- are there not many songs about the mystery of love?