I recently read, and read before that the origin of the heart shape is based on the female anatomy. I have tried researching it and every source I find gives differing opinions on the matter.

On a Facebook page I follow they posted this but gave no source.

A professor of psychology who studied the symbolism, origin and history of Valentine's Day said the traditional double-lobed heart symbol on candy and cards is inspired by the shape of female buttocks as they appear from behind, according to Discovery News.

The "essential literary and speculative evidence from mythology and secondary sources" leads to the theory, Prof. Galdino Pranzarone of Roanoke College in Salem, Va., told Discovery News.

The fact that the symbol doesn't resemble the human heart organ is one fairly glaring piece of evidence, he said.

"The twin lobes of the stylized version correspond roughly to the paired auricles and ventricles [chambers] of the anatomical heart," Pranzarone told Discovery News, adding that the organ "is never bright red in color" and the "shape does not have the invagination at the top nor the sharp point at the base."

The ancient Romans and Greeks may have started the link between the heart symbol and female anatomy, Pranzarone said. The Greeks associated beauty with the female behind's curves, he said. "The Greek goddess of beauty, Aphrodite, was beautiful all over, but was unique in that her buttocks were especially beautiful," he told Discovery News. "Her shapely rounded hemispheres were so appreciated by the Greeks that they built a special temple Aphrodite Kallipygos, which literally meant, 'Goddess with the Beautiful Buttocks.' This was probably the only religious building in the world that was dedicated to buttock worship."

From the Heart Shape wikipedia page...

What the traditional "heart shape" actually depicts is a matter of some controversy. It only vaguely resembles the human heart. The seed of the silphium plant, used in ancient times as an herbal contraceptive, has been suggested as the source of the heart symbol. The heart symbol could also be considered to depict features of the human female body, such as the female's buttocks, pubic mound, or spread vulva. The tantric symbol of the "Yoni" is another example of a heart-shaped abstraction of a woman's vulva.

I have heard several of these explanations before, but I was wanting to know if there was an actual answer to this.

  • 1
    I see two problems with this theory: 1) there's not pointy bit on any female buttocks I've seen recently. 2) the 'heart' shape would surely be the other way up, no?
    – Benjol
    Commented Nov 20, 2012 at 9:12
  • 4
    I think its was meant as when a female is bending over.
    – Cruril
    Commented Nov 29, 2012 at 20:02
  • 2
    It kind of look more like an anatomic heart to me.. stylized
    – Nikko
    Commented Feb 12, 2013 at 11:06

1 Answer 1


According to Dr. Armin Dietz, a cardiologist and a man who's apparently written a book touching on this subject,

The ivy leaf portrayed by prehistoric potters of long-forgotten cultures evolved into the red playing-card heart. This botanic symbol found in ancient Greek and Roman art - primarily in vase painting - represented both physical and, above all, eternal love, withstanding death.

The final transformation of the green heart-shaped leaf into the red playing-card heart took place in medieval writings, predominantly in the central-european literature of courtly love.

During the Middle Ages and early modern times, when medicine had a scholastic character, this symbol was used even by anatomists to portray the heart.

The worldwide circulation of the heart symbol through art, playing-cards and above all, however, through religious worship, has made the heart, besides the cross, to the probably most popular non-geometric symbol and to cardiology's emblem.

He also notes,

Interestingly, in Buddhism the playing-card heart also developed - independently of the western metamorphosis - from the fig tree (the bodhi tree) into the symbol not of love, but of enlightenment.

It was under such a tree that the ascetic Gautama found liberating enlightenment through years of meditation and became the Buddha.

His website (which contains excerpts from his book) traces the evolution of the heart symbol through the ages. The ivy leaf theory is also noted in some detail here.

In conclusion, the heart symbol appears to be less gynaecological and more botanical in origin.

  • 1
    Before the attaining enlightenment, "Gauthama Buddha" was named as "Siddhartha". So it would be more accurate to say 'the ascetic Siddhartha' and 'Gauthama Buddha'.
    – CRoshanLG
    Commented Nov 19, 2012 at 8:45
  • 11
    "gynaecological"? butt is not a reproductive organ :-P
    – vartec
    Commented Nov 19, 2012 at 10:25
  • 1
    @FeralOink: butt = buttocks; gynecological refers to female reproductive organs (vagina, uterus and ovaries).
    – vartec
    Commented Nov 19, 2012 at 15:18

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