What Does Wear Your Heart on Your Sleeve Mean?

Wear Your Heart on Your Sleeve Meaning

Definition: To show your emotions and feelings.

Origin of Wear Your Heart on Your Sleeve

This phrase comes from an old custom where a woman ties her favor to a man’s sleeve. The man wearing this favor on his sleeve was a signal of their love for each other.

An early use of the expression appeared in the work of the English playwright William Shakespeare. He used it in his play Othello, from the year 1601.

  • “But I will wear my heart upon my sleeves for daws to peck at.”

In general, wearing your heart on your sleeve is not encouraged behavior. To wear your heart on your sleeve implies an overly emotional person who cannot control his or her feelings in public.

Examples of Wear Your Heart on Your Sleeve

what does wearing your heart on your sleeve meanThis example shows two college students using the idiom while discussing romantic relationships.

Frank: I can’t tell if the woman I’ve been dating likes me or not.

Karl: Tell me what she’s said or done that has confused you.

Frank: There’s nothing specific. It’s just that I’ve always worn my heart on my sleeve. I always tell her how I think so positively about her, and how happy she makes me. She never shows any of her emotions, and she certainly doesn’t tell me how she feels.

Karl: Maybe you should just ask her.

meaning of wearing your heart on your sleeve

In this example, two friends are talking about the meeting one of them has to go to at work.

Lily: I’m so worried. On Friday, right before I was about to go home, I got an email from my boss. She wants to meet with me first thing on Monday morning.

Grace: Maybe she wants to talk about something positive, like giving you a raise.

Lily: Maybe, but it doesn’t seem likely. If she yells at me, I’m sure I’m going to start crying.

Grace: No, that’s totally unprofessional! You have to stop wearing your heart on your sleeve. Try to hide your feelings more when you are at work. You have to seem calm and reliable.

More Examples

The excerpt below is about a politician who frequently cries while performing his job.

  • He wears his heart on his sleeve – even crying in public.

Ohio Rep. John Boehner wept openly and unapologetically when he was elected House Speaker by his fellow Republicans a little over two years ago. –New York Daily News

This excerpt is about an athlete who wasn’t ashamed to show his sadness.

  • Flores showed there is crying in baseball and that it is a good thing. He showed that it was OK to wear your heart on your sleeve. –New York Post


To wear your heart on your sleeve emphasizes that rather than hide the way you feel, you display it openly.