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tear/tug/pull at/on (one's)/the heartstrings

To elicit strong feelings of sympathy or fondness. I don't know why, but that piece of music always tears at my heartstrings. That documentary really pulls on the heartstrings—you'll want to adopt all of those kids after watching it.
See also: heartstring, on, pull, tear, tug

play on someone's heartstrings

Fig. to attempt to get sympathy from someone. She is crying so she can play on your heartstrings and try to get you to take her home.
See also: heartstring, on, play

tug at the heartstrings


tug at your heartstrings

COMMON If someone or something tugs at the heartstrings or tugs at your heartstrings, they cause you to feel pity or sadness. Miss Cookson knows exactly how to tug at readers' heartstrings. Note: You can use verbs such as pull and pluck instead of tug. Unlike many charity campaigns, it doesn't pull at the heartstrings. Note: You can also omit the word at. McLachlan tugs the heartstrings with a succession of ballads. Note: Heartstrings is used in many other structures and expressions with similar meanings. This is not a movie that aims for the heartstrings. Note: In medieval times, it was believed that `heartstrings' were tendons which supported the heart.
See also: heartstring, tug

tug at somebody’s ˈheartstrings

make somebody feel strong emotions of sadness and pity: Advertisers often use babies and children to tug at your heartstrings.
See also: heartstring, tug
References in periodicals archive ?
Ever dependable but never expendable, Frankie and The Heartstrings.
The appeal is based on giving people the opportunity to download the double music CD Heartstrings and/or take advantage of the many tips and articles on their web page in return for a voluntary donation to a preferred animal charity.
The Heartstrings set built up with a hit and hits of the future as Frankie put it in reference to a couple of new songs.
wouldn't worry about too many heartstrings tomorrow
A quick, surprisingly well-written read, Confessions will pull at your heartstrings.
Her move to a residential school tears at our heartstrings as our expectations grow for her future.
It promises to tug heartstrings and raise public awareness of multiple sclerosis.
But old hands like more senior magistrate Val (Eluned Jones) have had their heartstrings tugged once too often and plead caution.
We cannot know all of the practical and soulful implications of what is happening in this western diocese, and yet we mourn for each and every Anglican parishioner whose heartstrings have been pulled by these events.
But after reading the caption and learning that the pill consists of "melted vinyl from every Diana Ross and the Supremes Top 40 record released," and that the work's title is When Your Heartstrings Break, I Can Mend Them Back (The Supreme Solution), 1998, one might be willing see the piece as an encapsulation, as it were, of the consolatory promise of a certain kind of popular music.
This might some day keep me from a lucrative second career as a talk show host, an injustice that would apparently tug at the heartstrings of our federal government, which has lately been cracking down on one of the newer infractions on the ever-expanding list of bias offenses: "accent discrimination.
We showcase wealthy disabled celebrities like Christopher Reeve and Jim Brady, who tug at our heartstrings and allow us to feel so good about how compassionate we are, while our President signs a bill that will exclude the disabled children of low-income families from the most basic forms of federal assistance.
Whatever the cause, your heartstrings will probably be zinging, too, when one of San Francisco's new-old streetcars glides your way.
With a compelling melody and memorable lyrics, the newest Hoover television commercials are sure to tug at the heartstrings and linger in the minds of American consumers.